Naomi Robson’s bid to save six-year-old West Papuan boy Wa-Wa (below) from allegedly becoming a menu item for a bunch of cannibals has consumed the Nine and Seven news and current affairs departments all week and built to a childish crescendo of insults last night.

It’s not unusual for TT and ACA to fight each other tooth and nail over a story, but the slanging match between Seven’s news and current affairs boss, Peter Meakin and Channel Nine’s David Hurley (former head of A Current Affair) and Gary Linnell, Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, has taken the blood sport to a whole new level.

Last night’s episode of TT used footage from the original 60 Minutes program to make up for their lack of material and then accused Channel Nine of abandoning Wa-Wa and then sabotaging Channel Seven’s attempt to save the little boy.

Gary Linnell told The Australian that claims by Meakin that the Nine Network tried to frustrate Seven by intimidation, bullying and offering money to local guides to sabotage the story “are deeply offensive and demonstrably wrong…” Linnell said Nine would pursue Seven in court.

Meanwhile, David Hurley bagged Seven in The Tele, “Peter Meakin is a mate of mine but on this matter is a craven liar… It’s long overdue (that) Naomi Robson took some responsibility for her own actions.”

Meakin told the Tele he would refuse to “resort to grubby personal insults” and said Nine was “walking in quicksand…Hurley’s clearly rattled so that’s fine. He’s permitted to call me a craven liar – that’s why he commands such a tremendous salary.”

60 Minutes first aired the story of Wa-Wa in May, attracting more than two million voyeurs. Last night TT ran a quote from an email from 60 Minutes executive producer, John Westacott to Paul Raffaele, the person who initially brought the story to the program’s attention, saying that returning to West Papua to save the boy would be too costly. From what TT claimed last night that reply seems to have sent Raffaele to Today Tonight.

Dame Naomi Robson is expected to return to her hostess’ chair tonight to tell all about her bizarre ratings-inspired tilt through the jungles of West Papua.

But in the meantime, what’s happened to Wa-Wa? Meakin told Jon Faine on ABC 774 this morning, “I just hope he’s OK and we’ll be making further inquiries on his behalf…”

No need to worry, Gary Linnell told Neil Mitchell on 3AW, “there’s no indication at all that this kid is going to be eaten, at least in the next decade…”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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