In his letter, Henderson said he had emailed Insiders executive producer Sam Clark on February 4 to confirm his continued appearances on the panel – and that Clark “phoned me the next day and advised that he had not made up his mind as to whether I would be asked on the program this year”.
“In a subsequent conversation on February 7, Sam Clark declined to guarantee me any appearances in the future,” Henderson wrote. “I understood the message and sent Insiders an ‘au revoir’ response on February 11. All this had nothing to do with what I may or may not have said on The Bolt Report many days later.”
In an episode of Sky News’ The Bolt Report last week, Henderson was asked about an ABC Four Corners report, which revealed that the headmaster of St Kevin’s College had supplied a character reference for an athletics coach convicted of grooming a student.
“How terrible was [the school’s handling of the case] really?” Bolt asked.
“Not at all,” Henderson replied. He also claimed the ABC has a “tradition of attacking mainly Catholic institutions, sometimes Christian institutions”.
Paris Street, the student who had been groomed by the coach, later said this discussion made him “sick”.
ABC sources say that while Henderson was not officially dumped from the program, he is very unlikely to return. They claim that new panellists are being sought to deliver “more productive” debates but that most long-serving guests will continue to appear.
“Insiders panels are decided as we go based on what the program needs, no one is banned and no one is guaranteed a spot,” and ABC spokeswoman said.
“As we’ve said previously, we’ll be introducing new panel members this year as well as drawing from our existing roster of great contributors. It’s always good to get a range of different voices and views.”
Henderson, a former Sydney Morning Herald columnist, now writes for The Australian. He has long accused the ABC of left-wing bias in its coverage of news and current affairs and its selection of hosts. ABC sources maintain this is unrelated to his removal from Insiders.
Earlier this month, Insiders returned with Speers as its new anchor – replacing founding presenter Barrie Cassidy – along with a revamped set and new panellists.
Michael Lallo is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.