Seven West Media CEO Kerry Stokes has hit back at the ABC for accusing the media mogul of interfering with last month’s Lib spill as a Nationals senator is now considering raising the report in the Senate.
The ABC report from journalist Andrew Probyn aired during the 7 pm news on Tuesday night and claimed News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch waged a media-driven war against ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to oust him from parliament.
According to ABC, Stokes was told by Murdoch News mastheads were deliberately publishing a barrage of negative commentary on Turnbull because he “had to go”.
The report will now possibly face Senate with Nationals senator John Williams stating: “I have no idea whether the Murdoch press got involved with dismissing the former PM or others, so perhaps the ABC can deliver the facts if asked at Senate estimates.”
In response to the report, Stokes sent a rare public statement to The Australian, where he refuted ABC’s accusations, saying he has “never been involved” in any leadership spills.
Stokes specifically addressed ABC’s Probyn who, coincidentally, has previously worked at Seven as a reporter.
The Seven West Media boss said in his statement: “I acknowledge you contacted me for an interview before you published the story on September 18.”
On Probyn, Stokes said: “Having worked with our organisation for many years, you should be very aware that I never enter into speculative political gossip nor have interfered with editorial opinions.”
“But in reply to your question posed in the headline. ‘Absolutely nothing, full stop’. I have never been involved in leadership events nor autopsies of them like the one you have published.
“You are wrong in asserting that The West Australian backed Scott Morrison at my direction. Again, having worked for me for many years, you should know that is not the way I operate.”
In his article, Probyn claimed Stokes had told his close friend Turnbull that he would address Murdoch and ask why News had painted Turnbull with such a negative brush in the final weeks of his prime ministership.
According to the ABC, Murdoch responded: “He had to go. We had to get rid of him.”
Speaking on this alleged conversation, Stokes said: “Furthermore, the characterisation and supposed details of the private conversations you have assigned to me are wrong.
“I would have hoped that you and the ABC would establish and publish the facts instead of accepting on face value spin from parties attempting to rewrite history.”
He finished: “I have never received a text from Rupert Murdoch on this or any matter. I don’t think he has my number nor I his.”