Lisa Wilkinson has revealed for the first time how she was abruptly dumped from The Project after her Logies speech caused the Bruce Lehrmann trial to be delayed.
Five months after she won the Gold Logie for her interview with Brittany Higgins alleging she had been raped by Mr Lehrmann – which he strenuously denies – Wilkinson was axed from Ten’s flagship current affairs show.
In an affidavit to the Federal Court, she revealed her surprise at Ten CEO Bev McGarvey’s decision.
‘I was shocked, embarrassed and deeply disappointed by Ms McGarvey’s decision to remove me from The Project,’ according to her affidavit.
‘At that time, my most recent contract as co-host of The Project had only been signed 11 months before and still had more than two years to run.’
She said she found out from her agent Nick Fordham after he had a meeting with Ms McGarvey in the wake of the furore about her Logies speech.
‘He told me that Ms McGarvey had informed him that Ten was doing a “rebrand” of The Project with a number of hosting changes,’ she added.
’He told me that she had said that those hosting changes included me.
‘He also told me that she had said that, because there had been too much heat on me in the months since the Logies speech – and, as a result, too much “brand damage” – it was best that I be removed from my hosting role on The Project.’
She said her axing followed inaccurate reporting of her speech, the words of which she said had been approved by Ten’s in-house legal counsel and by the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold.
‘It signified to me that Ten had no real interest in publicly correcting any of the damage done to me and my reputation, and were now only making it worse,’ she said.
‘I felt the decision would indicate to the public that I had in fact done something wrong. I knew that the story of me leaving The Project would result in a continuation of significant and humiliating headlines.’
She said the only direct contact she had with Ten bosses came eight days later when Ms McGarvey called on the eve of her final appearance on the show.
Wilkinson said Ms McGarvey approved her final comments on-air to explain her departure and added that they ‘sound very authentic’.
‘I said to her that this decision to remove me from The Project would result in yet more negative publicity for me, for The Project, and for Ten, particularly if my sudden departure was without explanation,’ she said.
Ms McGarvey sent her a message after the show telling her: ’Perfect delivery, you spoke from the heart.
‘It was a beautiful sentiment and you are so generous to your colleagues. Thank you. The media should all be kind, you deserve it.’
As part of the ongoing deal with Wilkinson, Ten said they would line up special interviews with her – but so far, she says none have come up in 2023 or 2024.
The month of her dumping from The Project, she said she engaged a solicitor over the changes to her contract.
‘I recall describing to him, when I was explaining my situation, how isolated, unprotected and abandoned I felt by the treatment of Ten,’ she said.
‘Although the variation to my contract envisaged that I participate in an interview series during the years of 2023 and 2024, to this date, so far as I am aware, no steps have been undertaken for this to occur at all, despite Mr Fordham’s repeated requests.’