Watch out Kerry O’Brien, Tony
Jones, Michelle Grattan and any other political journalist for whom
being open-minded does not mean being empty-headed. A flap over leaked
e-mails by a US television current events producer has set a nasty
precedent for what can happen when a journalist’s personal views become
known.

John Green, the weekend producer of the ABC network’s Good Morning America was
suspended for a month on the weekend after his private emails giving
opinions on George W Bush and Madeleine Albright were leaked. Green has
been forced to make a humiliating apology.

The first of Green’s
emails, written during a presidential debate in 2004 and sent to a
colleague on his BlackBerry read: “Are you watching this? Bush makes me
sick. If he uses the ‘mixed messages’ line one more time, I’m going to
puke.” This was leaked to the Drudge Report. The second leaked email
appeared last Thursday in The New York Post. It
was undated. Green had written that Madeleine Albright should not be
booked on the show because “Albright has Jew shame”. Green went on:
“She hates us anyway because she says we promised her five minutes and
only gave her two … I do not like her.”

Apparently Albright
and the ABC were in hot dispute at the time, but Albright has accepted
ABC’s apology and expects to appear on Good Morning America
soon to promote her book. (Albright was raised as a Roman Catholic, but
acknowledged her Jewish heritage in 1997 after it was discovered by a
journalist.)

The Washington Post reports thatGreen
is highly regarded, and it is believed that the emails were leaked by a
former employee of ABC with a vendetta against him. No-one has
suggested that his work is anything other than fair – a point
acknowledged by ABC management. So why, exactly, has Green been
suspended and forced to apologise?

The emails are certainly
embarrassing – but they were meant to be private. Does this mean that
in future journalists will be judged not on what they publish or
broadcast, but on every casual remark made in private? Are journalists
to be banned from having opinions?

Given the willingness of
Australian politicians to go on witch hunts for bias, the implications
of the American ABC’s buckle are frightening.

Peter Fray

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