Stan Grant has accused the Australian newspaper of acting like “a racist hit squad” with a history of targeting Indigenous public figures, after the Murdoch masthead claimed the former ABC host was the subject of a bullying complaint.
“They’ve targeted Marcia Langton, they’ve targeted Noel Pearson – he’s been depicted as some sort of raving bully in the past,” Grant said. “They’ve done it to Larissa Behrendt, they’ve done it to Bruce Pascoe, it’s hunting season for Aboriginal people, that’s what it is.”
Grant said the article published on the front page on Tuesday was an “outrageous slur” and came on top of the referendum year in which he has been “constantly abused” by the media and on social media, including headlines about the colour of his skin.
Grant stood down as host of the ABC’s Q+A program in May after receiving “grotesque racist abuse” which escalated after he spoke on the ABC about the impact of colonialism ahead of the King’s coronation.
He announced last week he had walked away from the ABC and the media after four decades because he wanted to change the toxic global news culture and he had joined the Constructive Institute.
The Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri man said the “disgraceful story” “completely misrepresents everything, when there’s been no complaint, no finding, nothing”.
The article said ABC management investigated a “public bullying incident” involving Grant and a senior ABC colleague in the foyer of the ABC’s Sydney headquarters.
The Guardian has confirmed the senior colleague did not lodge a formal complaint about the conversation, which took place on 29 January, the day of the first episode of Q+A for 2023.
The Australian’s article reported that Grant swore at his colleague. Grant admitted “he lost it” when he was approached by the woman because he was talking to a friend about his distress about his niece dying and his father being ill.
“I was trying to get my head together to host a show before I jump in a car and drive out to bury my niece and give the eulogy,” he said.
ABC management did discuss the incident with both parties who have conflicting accounts of what took place but there was no formal complaint. No one who witnessed the incident has described it as “bullying” but rather as a single altercation.
The Australian has been asking the ABC questions about the incident for several months, sources said.
“This is an Australian newspaper; a racist hit squad that has been targeting me forever,” Grant said. “And I am sick to death of me and my family being smeared constantly.
“Do they care that my kids are gonna get abused today? Do they care that I’m gonna get abused today? Do they care that I am going to get death threats? Do they care?”
Grant said he has been targeted by the Murdoch press before – most notably when he began a relationship with his now wife, ABC sports journalist Tracey Holmes, during the 2000 Olympics he worked for Channel Seven.
“When Tracey and I first got together, who was it that went after us like we were criminals? The Murdoch press,” he said. “Who was it that whipped up racist hatred after the King’s coronation against me? Who is it? It’s running a story utterly unsubstantiated of no complaint, no finding: accusing me of something with no understanding of what led up to it. No talking to the individual, nothing.
“They just smear people’s names constantly. And my name constantly.
“I don’t know why this was even a story.”
The Australian sought documents about the incident under the Freedom of Information Act but the Guardian understands no documents were released.
The article quotes from a letter sent by the ABC’s FOI officer to explain the reasons for refusing the Australian’s FOI request.
Grant is unhappy with the way the ABC has handled the incident and the publication by the Australian of the story, saying his former employer should have put up a stronger defence.
“All I know is that if somebody in these circumstances had been smeared in a paper in a disgraceful way, I’d be picking up the phone to every radio station and howling down the phone,” he said.
“But they don’t do that, they don’t do that at the ABC, they don’t defend their people like that at the ABC and that’s why I’m no longer there. Whether it’s the ABC whether it’s The Australian, whatever, I have had this all year.”
The ABC declined to comment on staffing matters.
The Australian and News Corp has been approached for comment.