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Outrage After Quadrant Magazine Says ABC Should Have Been Bombed Instead Of Manchester

Michelle Guthrie has condemned the 'vicious and offensive attack on the ABC'.

24/05/2017 11:48 AM AEST | Updated 24/05/2017 4:47 PM AEST

CANBERRA -- ABC boss Michelle Guthrie has penned a furious letter to the editor of conservative media outlet Quadrant, after its online editor wrote a controversial piece saying the Manchester suicide bomber should have blown up the public broadcaster's Ultimo headquarters "had there been a shred of justice".

Quadrant -- which bills itself as "the leading general intellectual journal of ideas, literature, poetry and historical and political debate published in Australia" -- published a piece on Tuesday, just hours after the Manchester attack, titled 'The Manchester Bomber's ABC Pals' which criticised the ABC's Q&A program for allegedly downplaying the risks of terrorism on Monday night.

In a line toward the end of the piece, Quadrant online editor Roger Franklin wrote "had there been a shred of justice, that blast would have detonated in an Ultimo TV studio", referencing the ABC's Sydney headquarters. if such an event had occurred, Franklin wrote, "none of the panel's likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity's intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty."

After much criticism online, the line was later changed to "What if that blast had detonated in an Ultimo TV studio?"

However, the outrage failed to subside. Communications minister Mitch Fifield called the article "sick and unhinged" and "a new low in Australian public debate," while many ABC staff and others in the media were shocked that a fellow journalist could have raised the possibility of terrorists targeting media.

On Wednesday, Fairfax Media reported the matter had been referred to the Australian Federal Police. Fairfax also reported that Franklin claimed the story was "first posted in draft form and updated progressively over the evening."

"The whole piece was an attack on terrorism. It is absurd to suggest that in the third-last paragraph I would advocate a terrorist act," Fairfax reported Franklin as saying.

On Wednesday, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie wrote to Quadrant expressing her shock over the piece. In the letter, posted publicly online, she called the article a "vicious and offensive attack on the ABC, its staff and its program guests."

"To take issue with our programming and our content is one thing. But to express the wish that, if there were any justice, the horrific terrorist bombing in Manchester would have taken place in the ABC's Ultimo studio and killed those assembled there is a new low in Australian public debate," Guthrie wrote.

"Like many others, I am appalled at your willingness to turn an act of terrorism in the United Kingdom into a means of making a political point against those you disagree with. One of the immediate results of this behaviour is that while our staff both here and in Manchester were working long hours to provide extensive coverage of this unfolding tragedy, we were also forced to reassure worried staff who had read your article and call in our own security experts to assess any possible impact flowing from your inflammatory words."

She demanded the article be removed, for Quadrant to apologise, and for her response to be featured
"prominently" on the magazine's website.

Response From ABC Managing Director

Dear Sirs,

Quadrant promotes itself as "the leading general intellectual journal of ideas". Those words ring hollow in the wake of last night's vicious and offensive attack on the ABC, its staff and its program guests.

To take issue with our programming and our content is one thing. But to express the wish that, if there were any justice, the horrific terrorist bombing in Manchester would have taken place in the ABC's Ultimo studio and killed those assembled there is a new low in Australian public debate.

Your subsequent attempt to make amends by changing some of the wording (without acknowledging or apologising for the original article) has done little to undo the damage. The article continues to state that if a blast occurred in one of our studios, none of the likely casualties "would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity's intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty".

Like many others, I am appalled at your willingness to turn an act of terrorism in the United Kingdom into a means of making a political point against those you disagree with. One of the immediate results of this behaviour is that while our staff both here and in Manchester were working long hours to provide extensive coverage of this unfolding tragedy, we were also forced to reassure worried staff who had read your article and call in our own security experts to assess any possible impact flowing from your inflammatory words.

I ask that this response be posted prominently on the Quadrant website, and I also ask that the article, which continues to contain entirely inappropriate comments about possible bombings at the ABC, be removed and apologised for.

Michelle Guthrie,
ABC Managing Director

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