ABC managing director David Anderson has defended his decision to halt a Four Corners episode exploring Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s alleged ties to a QAnon supporter.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is deeply offensive to suggest he has any association with the QAnon movement, after ABC managing director David Anderson knocked back a Four Corners episode about his alleged links to a supporter of the discredited conspiracy theory.
Mr Anderson said he knocked back the episode when it was sent to him for approval earlier this week because it was not ready for broadcast. But the Prime Minister criticised Four Cornersattempt to explore his connections to the supporter, Tim Stewart, who has been known to the Morrison family for years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Four Corners probe was deeply offensiveCredit:Alex Ellinghausen
I find it deeply offensive that there would be any suggestion that I would have any involvement or support for such a dangerous organisation. I clearly do not, Mr Morrison said on Friday.
It is also disappointing that Four Corners, with their inquiries, would seek to cast this aspersion not just against me, but by members of my own family. I just think that is really poor form.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported on Thursday that Mr Anderson knocked back the episode by prominent journalist Louise Milligan that was due to air on Monday. The decision was made amid escalating tensions between the public broadcaster and the government, and just days after Industry Minister Christian Porter dropped defamation action against the ABC and Milligan.
Mr Andersons decision has exposed the tensions that exist between Four Corners staff, ABC executives and other journalists at the public broadcaster about policies and processes. There are some senior staff members inside the ABC that believe Four Corners considers itself exempt from the standard editorial process, according to people familiar with their thinking who spoke anonymously because they are not authorised to speak publicly.
Four Corners staff have indicated their concerns are not with processes, but the reasons or motivations behind the decision to hold back the episode. But ABC insiders with knowledge of Mr Anderson and ABC News director Gaven Morris concerns dispute the idea there were political motivations for their editorial decisions.
A senior staffer for Mr Morrison called Mr Morris on Tuesday for a brief conversation to check whether the QAnon episode was running and discuss the questions that were sent to the Prime Ministers office. The Prime Ministers office received questions over a number of weeks from Four Corners about his ties to Mr Stewart, whose wife was employed at Kirribilli House as recently as last year, but no longer works there.
The Herald and The Age are not suggesting there was a conversation between the two parties about pulling the story. The QAnon conspiracy theory centres on discredited claims about an international paedophile ring involving politicians and celebrities. The Guardian Australia and Crikey have previously reported on the friendship between the Prime Ministers wife Jenny Morrison and Mr Stewarts wife Lynelle.