Peter Costello: Former treasurer and Nine Entertainment chair blames journo for altercation

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David Johns
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Channel 9 chairman Peter Costello has knocked over a reporter from The Australian newspaper at Canberra Airport.

Under siege Nine boss Peter Costello has denied flattening a photographer in an ugly confrontation in the middle of a busy airport — days after backing his top executives over their handling of bullying and sexual harassment at the media giant.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, a masthead owned by Nine Entertainment, Mr Costello blamed the journalist for the fall, claiming they were walking backwards while filming with his phone.

“As I walked past him, he walked back into an advertising placard and he fell over. I did not strike him,” he said.

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“If he’s upset about that, I’m sorry. But I did not strike him,” he said, adding that he had not subsequently spoken to Mendes.

“I wasn’t angry. Just like you blokes here if you’re backing back, and there’s a placard behind you, you can walk into it. I’ve seen it happen a million times, I’ve seen it here at Parliament House a million times, reporters back into the bollards and fall over,” he said.

Asked if he had assaulted Mendes, Costello said “that’s not the case. It’s not assault. As I said before he was backing backwards. He hit an advertising placard. I did not lay a finger or a fist or anything else”.

The former Treasurer, the chairman of Nine Entertainment, laughed as he stood over young journalist and photographer Liam Mendes seconds after dropping him to the ground.

The heavy-set Mr Costello was emerging from a flight into Canberra Airport when the journalist from The Australian started quizzing him about the drama at Nine over allegations of systemic sexual harassment and bullying.

Nine have been accused of ignoring poor treatment of women faced with harassment and bullying, and have rejected claims they protected perpetrators.

The shocking footage shows Mr Costello pausing briefly after scuttling Mendes before continuing on his way to his chauffeur-driven car.

Mr Costello, you can’t do that.

Mendes, a journalist who has worked in war zones and covered extreme news events, was visibly shaken by Mr Costello’s aggression.

The footage shows Mr Costello deliberately walking into Mendes as the reporter tried to ask questions but was met with a smirk and silence.

Mendes challenged Mr Costello from the ground, saying: “You’ve just assaulted me.”

“Mr Costello, you can’t do that, you can’t do that, it’s all captured on camera,” the journalist said.

“That was quite violent behaviour, Mr Costello. Journalists who work for Nine approach people in this manner every day and you attacked me just then. They’re serious questions Mr Costello.

“You can’t just push someone like that. It’s all on camera Mr Costello.

The confrontation is an odd flex from Mr Costello, who has chaired the media company for several years. As a politician he would be familiar with tough questioning from reporters, and also has a son, Seb, who works for Nine as a TV reporter.

Nine chairman Peter Costello has pushed a journalist to the ground at Canberra Airport.
Nine chairman Peter Costello stands over Liam Mendes after the incident. Credit: The Australian/The Australian

The Australian quoted a witness to the event, saying Mr Costello, 66, launched at the reporter.

“I just saw this guy attack,” the new site reported, “then I saw him on the floor with his shit everywhere.”

Mendes, an award-winning photojournalist, said he was “shaken up”.

While he has covered many news events, he had no expectation that a former renowned politician and leading businessman would be a danger to cover.

Journalist Liam Mendes.
Journalist Liam Mendes. Credit: Supplied/supplied

The Australian said there were numerous witnesses to the attack, described by one as like a “sumo wrestler”.

Nine has been under pressure since allegations emerged about the departure of top news man Darren Wick.

Costello backed his CEO Mike Sneesby last week after board deliberations, despite suggestions that the TV boss should have resigned over his handling of the affair.

An external consultation agency has been hired to undertake a review of the complaints regarding alleged sexual harassment and bullying, a process expected to be completed by early July.

Mr Sneesby has found himself under increasing pressure following the revelations.

He is also grappling with the share price falling more than 50 per cent below the value when the CEO started in March 2021.

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