Lisa Wilkinson has come under fire over accusations she may have ‘coached’ Brittany Higgins before her bombshell interview on The Project.
Channel Seven on Sunday night aired part of a recording from a five-hour lunch shared between Wilkinson and Ms Higgins days before the former political staffer aired her rape allegation against Bruce Lehrmann on TV in February 2021.
Mr Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence.
During the lunch meeting, Ms Higgins’ boyfriend David Sharaz asked Wilkinson what she expected from the interview – before Wilkinson eventually replied: ‘I don’t want to put words in your mouth.’
The recording came under closer scrutiny on Monday morning, with Sunrise host Natalie Barr questioning whether or not Wilkinson had been coaching Ms Higgins.
Veteran entertainment journalist Peter Ford claimed Wilkinson had crossed a line and weighed in on the debate on whether Wilkinson could lose the Logie she was awarded for the interview.
Lisa Wilkinson is pictured with her Logie award for Most Outstanding News Coverage or Public Affairs Report, which is now being called into question
Sunrise host Natalie Barr asked Ford: ‘Was that coaching or was that a journalist talking before the interview?’
‘Yeah, it’s a fine line, isn’t it,’ Ford replied.
‘But I generally think when someone says, “I don’t want to put words in your mouth”, that is exactly what they do want to do.’
Ms Higgins and her boyfriend David Sharaz had a five-hour lunch with Wilkinson and Channel 10 producer Angus Llewellyn a few days prior to her interview on The Project on February 15, 2021 – when she first aired her rape allegations.
The lunch was recorded, and subsequently played during the Spotlight special on Sunday night.
Mr Sharaz also asked Wilkinson what she wanted out of the interview, to which she replied: ‘The inequality that exists out there, whether it’s white privilege, whether it’s male domination, whether it’s you know criminal activity that is suppressed.
‘I’m a girl from the western suburbs of Sydney. I’ll always be motivated by exactly the same thing. People who deserve to be heard, not being heard.’
‘I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but if you can enunciate the fact that this place is all about suppression of people’s natural sense of justice.’
In the recording, the group could be heard laughing and joking about the inner workings of Parliament House, a former colleague’s last name, and calling Mr Lehrmann a ‘predator’ – despite the unproven allegations.
Ford said though the conversation was recorded over five hours, ‘there is that fine line between relaxing (an interviewee) and giving them some confidence, particularly when you’re dealing with something as intimate as this story was’.
CCTV footage from a bar shows Ms Higgins (left) and Mr Lehrmann (right) on March 22, 2019 – the night she claimed that he raped her
‘But certainly in the various grabs that were shown it crossed that line to where it did seem like Lisa was coaching Brittany as to what she should be saying.’
Ford said there were ‘very clear examples’ of Ms Higgins being coached and that ‘it was just a really bad look’.
‘It looks bad to the public who see that and they look at it and they think there’s something very suss about this,’ he said.
The entertainment reporter said Sunday night’s Spotlight episode ‘was a remarkable piece of television, but from the point of view of Lisa Wilkinson, it was a really bad look’.
‘Of course you are going to want to assure the talent (interviewee) you’re gonna do the right thing by them. But it did look like lines were crossed and it looked like she was coaching Brittany,’ he said.
Barr also asked Ford if Wilkinson could have the Logie award she won for her interview with Ms Higgins taken back.
‘Certainly Walkley Awards can be revoked,’ he replied. ‘I can’t think of an example where a Logie Award has been revoked.
‘But time will tell, I guess people are waiting to see how the ongoing situation plays out,’ Ford said.
During the criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year, Ms Higgins was questioned about the five hour conversation.
Natalie Barr (left) asked Peter Ford (right) if the Logie award Lisa Wilkinson won for her interview with Britanny Higgins could be taken back
‘That wasn’t the actual interview itself and I didn’t sign a stat dec [statutory declaration] on this. This is just us talking,’ she said.
Mr Lehrmann was tried in a 12-day hearing in October last year, but a mistrial was declared after a jury member brought banned reading material into the court.
Shane Drumgold, the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, dropped the case altogether in December due to concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health.
Channel 10 said it had no comment to make for this story.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Lisa Wilkinson for comment.