Nine’s failed kidnapping attempt in Lebanon is continuing to cost the network dearly, with sacked 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice securing a settlement of almost $1 million from the network, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Rice was the only person fired after 60 Minutes hired a “child recovery agency” to kidnap Australian woman Sally Faulkner’s children from the streets of Beirut. The operation went badly wrong, with reporter Tara Brown and her crew, as well as the four-person recovery team, ending up in Lebanese jail. After an internal investigation into the botched operation, Nine decided to fire Rice and censure the other members of the 60 Minutes team.
But Rice was not going quietly, hiring high-profile workplace relations lawyer John Laxon to begin a wrongful dismissal case. According to The Australian, Laxon declared in May that Rice should not take all the blame in the Lebanon story, with those higher up at the network involved from the start.
“’What’s happened to Stephen is diabolical from my perspective, in circumstances where a number of very senior people at Nine were involved in the story from the get go,’ Mr Laxon said in May.
‘To say that Stephen was somehow running the show and ultimately responsible is just nonsense. Stephen Rice is a scapegoat.’
The case has now been settled, and The Daily Telegraph estimates the entire fiasco has cost the network more than $3.5 million.
And what happened to the child recovery team? The man who led it, Adam Whittington, has now returned to Australia — and he’s giving his first interview to 60 Minutes‘ arch-rival, Seven’s Sunday Night. He was in a Lebanese prison for almost four months, and is not very well disposed towards Nine after the network left him to in prison while securing safe passage home for the 60 Minutes crew.
Seven’s media statement this morning makes it very clear that no money changed hands in exchange for the interview:
“Sunday Night made no payment to Mr Whittington, his family or any other party for the interview. The fact that he wasn’t paid will be disclosed in the program.”
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But The Gold Coast Bulletin claims he was paid ” between $750,000 and $1 million”.