Having uncritically and zealously promoted Malcolm Turnbull’s call for the resignation of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan, News Limited’s stable of metropolitan dailies yesterday changed course.

Turnbull the caped crusader underwent a spectacular fall from grace after the Australian Federal Police announced that the email at the centre of the political vendetta was a forgery.

The central piece of evidence upon which Turnbull and News Ltd’s editors, its Canberra journalists and commentators had based their attack on Rudd and Swan was a hoax, a fraud, a scam.

And when the News Ltd worms turned, the results were ugly. Turnbull was savaged and ridiculed in headlines across Murdochland:

  • The Australian “Turnbull’s fake email nightmare”
  • Sydney Daily Telegraph “BACKFIRE — Turnbull wounded as Utegate email exposed as fake”
  • Brisbane Courier-Mail “UTE BACKFIRE — Fake email turns the tables on embattled Turnbull”
  • Melbourne Herald-Sun “WHAT A CAR WRECK — Ute-gate fake email backfires on Turnbull”
  • Adelaide Advertiser “GRAND FAKE AUTO — Ute-gate: Email didn’t exist, pressure on Turnbull”

Hardened hacks will be familiar with the treatment of Turnbull. It is a consistent theme of the News Ltd school of journalism. A politician, a sports person or an entertainer is given celebrity status on the way up and when the coverage is exhausted they are comprehensively rubbished on the way down.

This way News Ltd papers cynically grabs extra circulation from the rise and the fall.

When the naming and shaming of the architects of this grubby assault on the nation’s elected leaders is conducted, let’s hope the ink-slingers at News Ltd take their place in the line-up.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey