Karl Stefanovic is in hot water after kicking off a Twitter war with a respected journalist over a besieged Great Barrier Reef charity.
After he kicked off the drama with a social media post on Saturday morning, Stefanovic had his journalistic principles questioned by award-winning Hugh Riminton and Labor senator Kristina Keneally.
The co-host of Nine’s Today show tweeted his support for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, saying it “deserves and will use every cent in its arsenal to save the reef.”
The secretive charity is under scrutiny in a Senate inquiry for the Federal Government’s decision to give it $444 million, and Stefanovic soon found himself embroiled in an unscripted saga.
The @GBRFoundation deserves and will use every cent in its arsenal to save the reef. I’ve no doubt their research into reef dna and conservation is the key. Let’s give them supporting space to prove it.
— Karl Stefanovic (@karlstefanovic) August 3, 2018
His decision to go political came after the the non-profit foundation last week finally revealed the names of its four founding members, which included a Queensland shale oil developer.
No tender process was run by the government, and its own marine science or reef agencies were not given the opportunity to apply for the funding granted to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The Stefanovic show of support had Ten’s senior reporter Riminton – who also presents for the ABC’s Radio National – hitting his keyboard, seemingly querying the principles of Nine’s most highly-paid star.
Fighting his corner, Stefanovic quickly fired back.
But as other Twitter users also pointed out, Riminton was referring to the GBR Foundation sponsoring Today’s July 2017 ‘We Love Australia’ road trip.
Several users, including Ms Keneally, posted a press release about the junket, proving its sponsors.
During the trip, Stefanovic and the show’s other stars went to Hamilton Island to launch a report written by the GBR Foundation.
Perhaps sensing he was in deep, the breakfast show host pulled the plug with a tweet saying all he’s interested in is saving the reef:
I come from Cairns. The Great Barrier Reef is home for millions of fish, turtles and wildlife; it’s one of the great natural wonders of the world. Millions rely on it for tourism. Politics should have no place in its waters. God we need to save it. We are running out of time.
— Karl Stefanovic (@karlstefanovic) August 5, 2018
His followers weren’t impressed.
“Then you should support funds being given to professional marine biologists, geneticists, physicists etc, not senior management of mining and oil companies,” said one Twitter user.
Said Suki Winter, “Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has done a fine job over many years advising government. I should know. Dad chaired it.”
A third said simply, “You’re compromised here.”
The day before Stefanovic weighed in, Keneally dubbed the controversy “#Reefgate”, claiming Stefanovic had a ‘conflict of interest’.
The senator pointed out that during the ‘I Love Australia’ trip he interviewed a Deloitte partner on-air to promote a report the company did for the GBR Foundation.
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) August 4, 2018
Ms Keneally tweeted that Deloitte, as a member of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Chairman’s panel, pays $20,000 a year to have its brand associated with the Great Barrier Reef.
In another tweet she asked, “Hey Great Barrier Reef Foundation – how much of that $444 million of public money currently sitting in your bank accounts are you going to spend on sponsoring Karl Stefanovic and the Today show? Or any other network television shows?”
Nine declined to comment on the issue.