Nine hung me out to dry over staged live cross, says former Today presenter Jessica Rowe

jessica rowe book coverTV presenter Jessica Rowe has claimed she was “hung out to dry” by Nine’s management over an embarrassing incident which helped end her brief tenure hosting the network’s Today Show.

Rowe, who now co-hosts Studio 10 for the Ten Network, revisited the infamous 2006 live cross in her new memoir, which is published today, and said that the fault lay with producers of the show.

Rowe said she was “pilloried” in the media after she conducted an interview with Brigadier Michael Slater and asked him if he felt in danger because he had armed soldiers guarding him – only for him to reply that they had been placed in the shot by a Nine stage manager.   

In the Allen & Unwin book, Rowe recounts her unhappy time with the Nine Network under the brief leadership of then CEO Eddie McGuire.

jessica rowe michael slaterShe wrote: “The pressure increased after an interview I did with Brigadier Michael Slater in East Timor in May. Australian troops had been deployed to Dili to help return order to the streets after rioting had left 200 people dead.

“I had an earpiece in my left ear, so the producer could talk to me while the show went to air to suggest questions, give me information or tell me to wind up the interview.

“Brigadier Slater appeared on the satellite dressed in his army fatigues, two armed soldiers behind him.

“Before long I heard the voice of the producer, in my earpiece. ‘How can it be so safe with those soldiers behind him? Ask the question, Jess,’ he said.”

According to Rowe, as the soldier continued to speak, the producer pushed a second time for her to ask the question, and then a third time.

She wrote: “I relented and asked the question. ‘I’m wondering how you feel about your safety given that you’ve got armed guards there behind you, armed soldiers?’

michael slater today jessica rowe“Jessica, I feel quite safe, yes, but not because I’ve got these armed soldiers behind me that were put there by your stage manager to make it look good,’ the brigadier replied.”

Rowe writes: “I quickly apologised, explaining that I was unaware this was the case and continued with the interview. Later that day… I suggested to my bosses and the publicity department that we needed to respond to the criticism. I was told I was overreacting.

“The next day I was pilloried on radio and in the newspapers. My unheard defence was, of course, that I was totally unaware the shot had been set up by our team.”

She said that the person speaking in her ear had not communicated with the stage manager on the ground in Dili.

“Of course, I realised the buck stopped with me, but I felt like I was being hung out to dry.”

Mumbrella understands that at the time, members of the Today production team did conduct a number of interviews, particularly with talk radio stations, explaining how the situation had come about and defending Rowe. It also later emerged that the brigadier did indeed travel in convoy with those soldiers in his car.

It was later alleged that at about the same time, McGuire encouraged Rowe’s managers to sack her. According to the book, when news of the claim that McGuire had asked whether the network should “bone” her was about to break, he had first attempted to apologise to her husband, Nine journalist Peter Overton, rather than calling Rowe herself. She wrote that he then called her:

It was Eddie. ‘I tried to ring Peter to apologise, but I can’t reach him…’ I could hear the panic in his voice.


‘As a husband he would be furious…’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘You know, sorry for saying…’


‘But I didn’t say it.’

What didn’t you say, Eddie?’

‘I didn’t say I was going to bone you.”

eddie michael bodeyA few months later, while Rowe was on maternity leave, she was sacked and replaced by Sarah Murdoch.

Meanwhile, a separate book about McGuire, titled Eddie, was published yesterday.

In the book, author Michael Bodey says of the “boning” conversation: “No staff at Nine can recall McGuire using the term, although it was used by another senior executive.”

Speaking on Studio 10 earlier this month after criticism of McGuire’s comments about “Mussies”, Rowe said of him: “He made my life hell.”

Tim Burrowes


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.