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‘My tentacles reach far and wide’

Those are the chilling words 2GB host Ben Fordham alleges former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said to a young Channel 9 journalist.Calling it a “first hand story” of “how Malcolm Turnbull used to interfere with the media,” Fordham said that in 2009 Mr Turnbull rang up a young Channel 9 journalist in the Canberra press gallery to try to smother a story suggesting he had been rude to Kevin Rudd’s wife, Therese Rein.“Malcolm Turnbull sought an assurance that the angle about his own behaviour would not be pursued,” claimed Fordham.“The journalist was surprised and refused to commit to anything over the phone to Malcolm Turnbull”, telling him they would “weigh everything up” before going to air at 6pm. “ (Turnbull) wanted a guarantee that the story about his behaviour and his alleged comments about Kevin Rudd’s wife his own not be featured on the 6pm news. Again the journalist refused,” Fordham said.“Malcolm Turnbull said to the journalist, I’d be very disappointed if you did it.”“He said to the journalist, ‘my tentacles reach far and wide.’ This was Malcolm Turnbull throwing his weight around.”“’Do I need to call (news director) Ian Cook? Do I need to call (then-Channel 9 owner) James (Packer)?’”, Fordham said Turnbull then told the journalist.“The journalist stood his ground and that night it was one of the lead stories on the 6pm news.”“When Malcolm says on Twitter that he plays Mr Nice Guy in the press and only raises his voice when he spots a typo or an error, he’s lying.”Fordham told the story in the context of a fight between Turnbull and the Morrison government over a Senate inquiry into the ABC’s complaints handling process.Many observers have noted the irony of Turnbull defending the ABC given his own record of complaining to the national broadcaster.News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden tweeted Monday, “I am all for the independence of the ABC? But didn’t @TurnbullMalcolm & his office regularly go off his brain to the ABC about @andrewprobyn et al?”In 2018, the Turnbull government also lodged a series of complaints with the ABC over the coverage of then-chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.In 2020, Alberici was involved in a bitter legal fight with the ABC, which she had left at that point, over claims that her bosses kowtowed to complaints from Turnbull.“(ABC News Director Gaven) Morris has complained to our client that she is the cause of the ‘prime minister ringing him’ with complaints,” a legal letter from Alberici’s lawyers to the ABC read.“That, of course, is worrying. It should not be that the prime minister is permitted to ring Mr Morris to make this or that demand as to its editorial content. The ABC must be independent. The only real contact with the prime minister should be the chairperson.”Fordham has issued a challenge to the former prime minister to come on air if he wished to correct the record.The Daily Telegraph is seeking comment from Mr Turnbull over the claims.

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