The Diary: Newsman's anger over debacle of fake abuse

Peter Williams 'sold a pup' agreeing to participate in story on bullying of stars.

TVNZ's Peter Williams is "mortified'' the story of made-up bullying texts was made public, and says he hasn't been abused by a viewer for years. Photo / APN
TVNZ's Peter Williams is "mortified'' the story of made-up bullying texts was made public, and says he hasn't been abused by a viewer for years. Photo / APN

Veteran TVNZ broadcaster Peter Williams, who was exposed for faking an online abuse message he claimed to have received from a cyber bully, tells The Diary he was asked to make the story up and is embarrassed and humiliated by the situation.

"I'm feeling pissed off! I'm absolutely mortified by the outcome," Williams said. "Firstly, that the story got out of the TVNZ newsroom on Tuesday and was leaked to you guys [at the Herald]. There's obviously a Deep Throat. But also because I was sold a pup, I was sold a different story ... someone asked me to make it up."

Williams wouldn't clarify. "I can't say any more than that. I'm very unhappy about the circumstances."

Williams and Seven Sharp reporter Dean Butler were spoken to by TVNZ management after it was revealed messages they read in a segment on the Breakfast programme about online bullying were fake.

In an email to staff on Wednesday, TVNZ news and current affairs director John Gillespie apologised and said it was a "misunderstanding".

"They mistakenly thought they had been asked to contribute to a more fanciful item. I'm still finding out why, and how, this occurred. The guys are mortified about what's happened, and so am I."

The Diary understands Breakfast reporter Sam Wallace approached colleagues to read messages they had been sent by members of the public to highlight the issue of abuse people in the public eye suffered.

A One News staff member, who was asked to participate in the segment but declined, told The Diary Wallace pitched it as a "light-hearted piece in the vein of [American comedian] Jimmy Kimmel" who gets Hollywood stars to appear on his late-night show to read out abusive tweets they've received.

But serious questions need asking. What was the purpose of the story? Who told Williams to make it up? And why, as a veteran journalist, did he feel it was acceptable to do so?

A rep for TVNZ said no further comment could be made while an investigation was under way.

Williams is beloved by viewers and regarded as TVNZ's most popular newscaster. He's away for a wedding in Wellington this weekend, and next week he celebrates his 60th birthday with a skiing trip to Vail, Colorado.

"The reason it's happened to me is because I'm not on Facebook and Twitter, so I don't get online abuse. Any abuse I've received over the years is water off a duck's back. The last time I got an abusive message from a viewer was [as] a sports commentator ... a long time ago."

TVNZ says it maintains strict editorial standards but, you have to ask, does Gillespie have the reins of his newsroom? Last week, Labour Party hopeful Shane Taurima was busted mixing his political interests from his journalistic desk within the Maori and Pacific Unit. This week, a senior news journalist was busted faking a cyber bullying message.

The story was an attempt by TVNZ to engender sympathy towards their reporters and presenters who were allegedly victims of online abuse, but it has backfired badly. Colleagues are backing Williams. "He hates being pulled into Breakfast stunts. He says he's a serious news journalist and he doesn't like being part of gimmicks. This will floor him. He wouldn't have set out to offend and we really feel for him," a colleague said.

Face of The Nation

TV3's Patrick Gower is taking over current affairs show The Nation ... for now. TV3's political programme kicks off this weekend with a different approach for election year. Gower will conduct an in-depth interview tomorrow with Labour leader David Cunliffe, and the following weekend with Prime Minister John Key. He'll be joined by Simon Shepherd who will co-host the two-week special edition. The network says it is close to signing a permanent host.

All dolled up for Derby Day

TV3 Derby Day at Ellerslie tomorrow will be glamorous with TV personalities putting on frilly frocks.

Amber Peebles and Brooke Howard-Smith will join other celebrities at the races tomorrow. Photo / APN
Amber Peebles and Brooke Howard-Smith will join other celebrities at the races tomorrow. Photo / APN

Colin Mathura-Jeffree, Hilary Barry, Brooke Howard-Smith, Amber Peebles, Ingrid Hipkiss, Amanda Gillies and Rose Matafeo are expected to attend.

Rose Matafeo will be glammed up for TV3 Derby Day at Ellerslie.
Rose Matafeo will be glammed up for TV3 Derby Day at Ellerslie.

So, too Sir Colin Meads and triple-century maker Brendon McCullum, members of the Go Racing syndicate. Former All Blacks coach John Hart has a horse, Durham Town, racing in the $100,000 Darley Plate.

The last questions ...

* Which TV face is the voice of an advertisement for a men's product? The same person who spurned advice from a broadcaster recently because he said he had nothing new to learn.

* Which ordinarily innocuous Labour MP told bar dwellers he'd like to perform a certain act on the staff member of which prominent National minister?

* Which journalist sent superfluous sxt messages to a much younger woman and complimented her on looking ``a million dollars'' after the farewell drinks of a media colleague? This same journalist has a partner and the target of his unprovoked sxting is in a relationship.

* Which senior backbencher wouldn't have a problem advising the Act Party on new policy ideas?

- NZ Herald

Rachel Glucina is New Zealand’s reigning gossip queen, notorious for breaking celebrity scoops and dishing dirt on the country’s best known personalities. She’s feared. She’s loathed. She’s courted by anyone with skeletons in their closet. Rachel knows where the bodies are buried. Mick Jagger wined and dined her. Mike McRoberts devoted a chapter to her in his memoirs. And John Key has her on speed dial.

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