Lisa Wilkinson has told the federal court that Network Ten executives pulled her off-air from The Project because her Logies speech caused too much “brand damage”.
The decision left her feeling “isolated, unprotected, and abandoned” by executives, including CEO Beverley McGarvey, she told the court.
“I was shocked, embarrassed and deeply disappointed by Ms McGarvey’s decision to remove me from The Project,” Wilkinson said in an affidavit.
“At that time, my most recent contract as co-host of The Project had only been signed 11 months before and still had more than two years to run.”
Wilkinson was removed from the news program in November 2022, when she still had two years left to run on her contract. She said her agent met with McGarvey and was told that The Project was undergoing a “rebrand” and Wilkinson had been removed from the panel due to “brand damage” following her Logies speech.
This was despite the speech being approved, according to Wilkinson.
“I had begged them to put out something to make clear publicly the fact that they had asked me to give the speech; they had been involved in legalling that speech right up until 4:37 on the afternoon of the Logies,” Wilkinson told the court.
“That speech had also been approved by the CEO Ms Bev McGarvey, it had also been approved by the head of Network Communications Ms Cat Donovan.”
Ten’s head of litigation, Tasha Smithies, denied that her confirmation the Logies speech was “OK” led to the public backlash against Wilkinson.
In the 2022 Logies acceptance speech, Wilkinson spoke about Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape in Parliament House. It led to the criminal trial of Bruce Lehmann in the ACT Supreme Court being delayed by three months.
The claims were heard in court yesterday as part of a cross-claim against Ten over a dispute about more than $700,000 in legal costs in the Lehrmann case. Lehrmann is suing Ten and Wilkinson for defamation because of the interview Wilkinson did with Higgins on The Project, in which she alleged she was raped.
In the affidavit, Wilkinson also said Ten’s decision not to pay her original legal expenses was “intentionally cruel and wholly disingenuous”. It details a list of questions that Wilkinson sent McGarvey on 8 February 2023. Some of these questions, listed as “Questions for Bev if she has the courage to meet on Friday” were:
- “Why have we never met, been given the details of, or had the opportunity to engage with, Ten’s ‘Crisis Comms team?’”
- “What evidence do Ten have to show us of their ‘crisis comms’ work?”
- “What is Bev’s plan for the ‘interview series’ I am now contracted to do?” (referencing a series that was designed to replace her role on The Project.)
- “Who will be EPing, what is the time slot, production budget, marketing budget…what calibre of interview subject does she envisage for the three episodes that will have any kind of ratings cut-through that such a short-lived ‘series’ would justify?”
- “What steps is Ten currently taking to protect my reputation in the press?”
- “Given the ongoing, serious reputational damage done to me whilst following to the absolute letter all advice given to me up to, including and since the Logies speech – a speech cleared by Ten Legal and Bev herself prior to the speech being given – what does she intend to do to fix it?”
No meeting took place, according to the affidavit.
The federal court hearing continues today.