Four Corners pushes to air QAnon episode within weeks
Four Corners will push for its episode linking Scott Morrison to a QAnon conspiracy theorist to air within the next fortnight, despite the Prime Minister’s office rebuffing the broadcaster’s attempts for a detailed response to its questions.
The controversy over the episode will be a key focus of a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, when ABC managing director David Anderson will face questions over his decision to delay the program days out from scheduled airing, deeming it “not ready”.
ABC sources familiar with the internal dynamics of the controversy who were not authorised to speak publicly said Four Corners was working to address Mr Anderson’s concerns with the aim of having it broadcast-ready in the next two weeks. One of the concerns was that the Prime Minister had not responded to detailed questions from the broadcaster.
ABC managing director David Anderson will return to Canberra on Monday to face questions over his decision to hold back a Four Corners episode which explored Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ties to a QAnon supporter.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
Mr Morrison’s office responded to the ABC on Sunday with a brief statement after weeks of ignoring their requests for comment, with a government source saying the response did not want to give credence to “crazy Twitter conspiracy theories”. The statement comes after Mr Morrison publicly criticised Four Corners last week for “poor form” by attempting to explore his connections to QAnon supporter, Tim Stewart, who has been known to the Morrison family for years.
Lead investigative reporter on the episode, Louise Milligan, said on Twitter on Saturday the ABC had contacted Mr Morrison’s office “more than 20 times” over the past month seeking answers to questions relating to the story.
Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson said she intended to use the estimates hearing to ask Mr Anderson about the planned episode and to raise concerns about the ABC’s social media policy.
“I intend to ask Mr Anderson about ABC editorial standards including in relation to reports that a proposed Four Corners story, which made deeply offensive claims and unjustifiably attacked the Prime Minister and his family, had not met the requisite editorial standards,” Senator Henderson said.
Mr Anderson, who is also editor-in-chief, informed ABC staff via email last week that the reason he delayed the episode from airing this Monday was because it required more work in order to satisfy a number of claims made, and he had encouraged Milligan’s team to “keep going”.
The decision to recall Mr Anderson for further evidence, just days after his last appearance at Senate estimates, was initiated by Labor and the Greens before the controversy over the Four Corners episode erupted. Instead, the parties sought Mr Anderson’s return to extract details over the settlement deal struck between the ABC and Industry Minister Christian Porter after he discontinued his defamation action against the broadcaster last week.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Mr Porter’s defamation action had cost ABC resources, and the public had a right to know what had happened.
“It is important to understand exactly what this bluff has cost taxpayers and correct the record on some of the outlandish statements made by Porter, which go to the ABC’s integrity,” Mr Dreyfus said.
Mr Porter sought to claim victory over the ABC after he dropped his lawsuit, which he launched in March over Milligan’s reporting of a historical rape allegation against him in an online article in February. He continues to strenuously deny the allegation. But the parties continued to dispute the details of the settlement in the hours after it was announced.
The ABC has maintained it did not pay Mr Porter any damages, only his mediation costs, and has appended an editorial note to the article, which remains online. Mr Anderson is expected to disclose the cost of the settlement to the ABC when asked on Monday.
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