the ABC has responded to a claim made by Former managing director Michelle Guthrie that ex-chairman Justin Milne inappropriately touched her while the two were working together at the public broadcaster.
The explosive accusation came during an interview with Guthrie on last night’s episode of Four Corners.
According to Guthrie, Milne touched her inappropriately; rubbing her back while the two were attending a board meeting at Billy Kwong restaurant in late 2017.
Guthrie said: “Inappropriate touching is the best description of it.”
“I felt icky. It was inappropriate. It was unprofessional and inappropriate.”
In a statement sent to B&T, an ABC spokesperson said: “The ABC has no comment to make.
“Issues raised in last night’s Four Corners report are the subject of legal action, a Senate inquiry and an investigation by an independent external expert commissioned by the board.”
Milne and Guthrie’s relationship was notoriously tense, triggered by their disagreement over Triple J changing the date of its Hottest 100 Countdown; as well as a dispute about ABC journalist Emma Alberici, which inevitably led both Guthrie and Milne’s demise at the public broadcaster.
Speaking on Guthrie and Milne’s relationship, the former managing director said: “It didn’t have an effect on my professional relationship with him, but it was certainly in [my] mind that in social settings.
Adding: “I tried to avoid putting myself into situations where that might recur.”
According to the ABC, Guthrie met with board member Joe Gersh following the incident, in an effort to have the matter formally discussed and a complaint written.
However, no complaint was ever lodged.
In a statement on the meeting between Guthrie and Gersh, the ABC board said: “The board determined that Gersh would meet with Guthrie to give her an opportunity to formalise her allegations and make a complaint, which would be dealt with by the board.
“Guthrie declined to formalise her allegations or make a complaint.”
Milne has now come out categorically denying the claims.
He said in response to the accusation: “I think she meant that (accusation) to have a sexual innuendo about it, which I can’t possibly for the life of me understand why she would say that.
“She outlined a number of allegations and you’re going to have to forgive me for not going into them chapter and verse, except to say that I never, ever behaved in any inappropriate way with Michelle.
“I had no reason to whatsoever and I didn’t.
“I’ve had no physical relationship with Michelle at all. I never, ever, acted inappropriately with Michelle, or indeed with any other woman in the workforce, or any other woman at all,” he said.
ABC’s Q&A followed Four Corners and host Tony Jones was quick to comment on the unfolding scandal.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) November 12, 2018
Speaking on the accusation, Jones said: “[The ABC] is effectively facing its own #MeToo moment.”
He added: “It is… incredibly difficult to talk too much about the Four Corners issue. It is a bit shocking, I think.”
This is the latest in a series of difficult events at the public broadcaster, as the last 12 months have been fraught with cuts, staff mismanagement, claims of cosying up to politicians, senior leadership shake-ups and Guthrie now suing the ABC on the basis of unfair dismissal.
B&T has approached the ABC for additional comment.