“Abducting the Truth” for Ratings
Tara Brown and Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes Australia share a history steeped in forging facts, manipulating details, and even staging incidents, specializing in dirty tricks to try to shore up sagging ratings.
No better example confirms their willingness to mislead the public than the shameful—and law-breaking—incident that occurred in Lebanon in 2016. Brown and her production crew were arrested after they paid for and staged a “rescue” of two Lebanese-Australian children who went to Lebanon with their father for a holiday. When the 60 Minutes crew, the recovery team and the children’s mother ended up in jail in Beirut, the whole sordid tale of how Brown sold her journalistic credibility for ratings spilled out and made headlines.
The story began when a Brisbane woman, Sally Faulkner, heard from her estranged Lebanese-American husband, Ali Elamine, that their children, 5 and 3, would not be returning to Australia from the trip.
Seeing a chance for a spike in viewers, Tara Brown convinced the vulnerable Faulkner to participate in a staged “rescue.” Channel Nine paid Adam Whittington of Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) $115,000 to arrange the abduction of the two children while they were on their way to school in Beirut. An elaborate scheme enticed the father into an early morning appointment so his 72-year-old mother would be escorting the children to school. She was injured when the children were wrenched from her at a school bus stop.
All the participants—including the children’s mother Sally Faulkner, Tara Brown and her 60 Minutes crew, abductor Adam Whittington and his crew—were rounded up and arrested. They were charged with kidnapping, assault, hiding information and criminal conspiracy and faced 20 years in prison and hard labor.
Channel Nine quietly paid what could be called a $500,000 bribe to the father to drop all charges. After two weeks in a Beirut jail, Brown, Faulkner and the other Channel Nine crew members were bailed out by the network and put on a plane back to Australia, leaving in prison the three men they hired to abduct the children.
And how did Brown respond? In an interview aired on her own station after Channel Nine paid her way out of the fiasco, she spun the story this way:
“I thought, ‘We’re journalists, we’re doing our job.’”
Just a journalist doing their job? As the Queensland Times noted, “a direct payment to Whittington makes the group a criminal enterprise and means that all have equal criminal liability for what happened.”
A local Australian radio commentator blasted Brown and 60 Minutes: “It seems here the preference was for television ratings via vigilante justice.”
Even Hugh Marks, Nine chief executive at the time, said the network and program suffered substantial harm to their reputation, which would cause viewers to doubt subsequent reports. “We got too close to the story and suffered damaging consequences,” he said.
What? They didn’t get “too close” to the story. They staged it.
They learned nothing from the debacle. Making up news to chase ratings is what Tara Brown, 60 Minutes Australia and Channel Nine do. It’s their brand.