Peter van Onselen’s future as a panellist on The Project has been called into question after three of his colleagues publicly condemned him for his newspaper column criticising Australian of the Year Grace Tame.
Former TV executive-turned-commentator Rob McKnight said the criticism levelled at Channel 10’s political editor has been so extreme since the explosive clash on Tuesday’s show that he questioned whether he’ll ever return to the left-leaning panel show.
‘I can’t see how he can continue on the program,’ Mr McKnight, the editor-in-chief of TV Blackbox, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Will he want to work with them? Will they want to work with him?’
The rift between van Onselen and his colleagues was exposed when he called Tame ‘ungracious, rude and childish’ in a column for The Australian on Tuesday.
He was responding to viral footage of the left-wing activist scowling at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and refusing to look him in the eye at a morning tea for this year’s AOTY finalists at The Lodge in Canberra earlier that day.
His column, while praising Tame’s advocacy for sexual abuse survivors as ‘worthy’, also questioned why she felt the need to be so rude to the PM at his own home.
It was those lines that saw him slammed on air that night by co-host Carrie Bickmore and guest journalist Amy Remeikis.
Peter van Onselen’s (left) future as a panelist on The Project has been called into question after three of his colleagues, including Carrie Bickmore (right) publicly condemned him for his newspaper column criticising former Australian of the Year Grace Tame
Fellow presenter Lisa Wilkinson, who was not part of the heated segment but is rumoured to dislike van Onselen, later made her allegiance clear by sharing a post on Instagram applauding Tame for ‘making noise’ during her tenure as Australian of the Year in 2021.
And another Project host, comedian Tommy Little, joined the chorus of criticism on Thursday by calling van Onselen’s op-ed ‘stupid’ during a live radio segment.
In light of the barrage of criticism from his colleagues, Mr McKnight said he wouldn’t be surprised to see van Onselen, 46, sign off on the program for good.
‘I can’t see how he can continue on the show when Lisa and Carrie have turned on him publicly. Will he want to work with them? Will they want to work with him? I can’t imagine it’s a comfortable place for him to be when he’s sitting at that desk,’ he said.
The rift between van Onselen (pictured) and his colleagues was exposed last Tuesday when he called Tame ‘ungracious, rude and childish’ in a column for The Australian. Hours later, he was excoriated by Bickmore and guest Amy Remeikis live on air
Mr McKnight, a former executive producer of Studio 10, also suggested the behind-the-scenes team at The Project had thrown van Onselen ‘under the bus’.
‘You have to wonder why the show seemed so willing to throw [the commentator widely known as] “PvO” under the bus. They [the social media team] even tweeted the video promoting it as “THAT video”.
‘To be honest it was one of the most engaging segments The Project has had in years, but was the takedown of PvO planned? I have my suspicions.
‘Hosts disagreeing with each other can make for good TV, but this seemed personal and targeted from a production point of view. Carrie’s reaction did seem genuine though.’
Daily Mail Australia approached Channel 10 for comment on van Onselen’s future at The Project, and also sought a response to claims the on-air takedown was ‘planned’ by producers. The network declined to comment.
Former TV executive-turned-commentator Rob McKnight (pictured) feels the criticism levelled against Channel 10’s political editor has been so extreme over the last week that it begs the question whether he’ll ever feel welcome on the current affairs show again
The saga began on Tuesday when Tame, who was appointed Australian of the Year in 2021 for spearheading the ‘Let Her Speak’ campaign allowing survivors of sexual abuse to speak publicly about their experiences, attended a morning tea for this year’s AOTY finalists at the Prime Minister’s residence.
A stony-faced Tame, who was joined by her fiancé Max Heerey, avoided eye contact with Mr Morrison and refused to smile for photos with him at the event.
Her conduct has divided opinion, with her supporters defending her right to act as she pleases around a PM she does not respect, while her detractors say it was a juvenile display that distracted from her important activism.
Van Onselen, reflecting the view held by many commentators and mainstream Australia, called her ‘ungracious, rude and childish’, then asked: ‘If your disdain for the man is so great (understandable perhaps) that you can’t even muster basic and common courtesy, then just don’t go.’
The saga began on Tuesday when outgoing Australian of the Year Grace Tame (second from right, next to her fiancé Max Heerey), attended a morning tea for this year’s AOTY finalists in Canberra hosted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison (second from left) and his wife Jenny (left)
A stony-faced Tame, who was joined by her fiancé Max Heerey, avoided eye contact with Mr Morrison and refused to smile for photos with him at the event
His column for The Australian went down like a lead balloon with his Project co-host Bickmore and Guardian journalist Remeikis, who is a sexual assault survivor, and they called him out on air hours later.
‘Your column today [was] devastating to so many people,’ Ms Remeikis said.
‘Woman constantly have to come out talk about their trauma… talk about not being taken seriously, scream the roof down get to the point where I’m almost crying on national television to talk about this.
‘We’re constantly being told how we should act, who we should think about and who perhaps should be seen in our place.’
PVO’s column went down like a lead balloon with his Project co-host Carrie Bickmore (pictured in December), who resented van Onselen calling Tame ‘childish’ after her own childhood was taken away by a predator
Bickmore then asked van Onselen why he felt he needed to tell Tame, who is known for her opposition to the Morrison government, to act in a certain way and to smile during a ‘catastrophe’.
‘I didn’t think she should smile and pretend it’s okay; I just thought she shouldn’t go. If you can’t be polite in some form, I think just don’t go,’ he responded, adding that he applauded everything Tame had done for survivors of sexual assault.
Bickmore pressed for an answer to why Tame should not have attended the morning tea, to which van Onselen said: ‘If you can’t show basic courtesy, I think it’s immature.’
‘You spoke about how she acted as a child. You know when she should have been able to act as a child? When she was a child. But she was preyed upon by a man and lost part of herself in that,’ Bickmore fired back.
‘I’m unsure how that article today helps when I’m assuming, like the entire nation, you want violence against women and children to end?’
The commentator responded by saying he’d been the victim of an attempted sexual assault and understood the importance of the conversation around sexual abuse.
‘But I just think if you can’t be polite to the Prime Minister of the country – I get it, I said in the article, I get it – if she can’t be polite to him, then just don’t go,’ van Onselen said.
After the tense segment aired, fellow Project presenter Lisa Wilkinson (pictured), who is rumoured to dislike van Onselen, publicly sided with Tame in a gushing Instagram post
‘Thank you Grace. Thank you for always speaking your truth. Thank you for never wavering from your passionate fight for justice for survivors of sexual assault,’ Wilkinson wrote
Tame was groomed and molested by her maths teacher when she was just 15.
After the tense segment aired, fellow Project presenter Lisa Wilkinson publicly sided with Tame in a gushing Instagram post.
‘Thank you Grace. Thank you for always speaking your truth. Thank you for never wavering from your passionate fight for justice for survivors of sexual assault,’ she wrote.
‘Thank you for doing everything within your power to make sure over the last 12 months that those in charge were listening, and acting on much-needed change.’
She continued to thank both Tame and fellow advocate for survivors of sexual abuse Brittany Higgins for their tireless campaigning.
‘Grace, the imprint you leave as Australian Of The Year will be felt for generations to come,’ Wilkinson said.
‘Finally, and most importantly Grace, thank you for making noise… just like you promised you would.’
Wilkinson’s post came amid ‘swirling industry rumours of historical tension’ between her and van Onselen, according to News.com.au.
A third Project presenter, Tommy Little, weighed in the dispute on Thursday on the Hit Network radio show he co-hosts with Bickmore.
During a debrief with Remeikis two days after her on-air clash with van Onselen, Little asked: ‘Is this exactly what the bigger problem is all the time in that there are real issues at play here, and then you’ve got guys chiming in and diverting attention away to stupid things by saying something’s immature?’
A third Project presenter, Tommy Little (pictured), weighed in the dispute on Thursday on the Hit Network radio show he co-hosts with Bickmore. He said van Onselen’s take was ‘stupid’