Journalist Lisa Wilkinson has described feeling 'isolated, unprotected and abandoned' by Network Ten amid the fallout of her controversial Logies speech about Brittany Higgins.
"I was shocked, embarrassed and deeply disappointed by [Ten CEO Beverly McGarvey's] decision to remove me from The Project," Ms Wilkinson said in an affidavit.
"It signified to me that Ten had no real interest in publicly correcting any of the damage done to me and my reputation, and were now only making it worse.
"I felt the decision would indicate to the public that I had in fact done something wrong."
Ms Wilkinson gave evidence in the Federal Court on Tuesday as part of her legal action against Ten.
The court heard she "alone" was accused of derailing the Bruce Lehrmann rape case by delivering the speech, which gave rise to sub judice contempt issues, despite it being approved and encouraged by her employer.
Ms Wilkinson claims having lost all faith in Ten and its ability to legally represent her.
Justice Michael Lee must decide if it was appropriate for Ms Wilkinson to retain her own legal counsel for the Bruce Lehrmann defamation case and what costs Ten must reasonably bear for that decision.
The high-profile journalist filed a cost claim against her employer last year, when she claimed it owed her more than $723,000 already racked up in the civil proceedings.
It's unknown what that cost has now blown out to since the case went to trial across November and December of last year.
'Brand damage' after Logies speech
Ms Wilkinson returned to the witness box, where she was previously grilled about her journalistic professionalism in reporting Ms Higgins' claim of being raped in a ministerial office on March 23, 2019.
The court heard the journalist felt hung out to dry by Ten after delivering the Logies speech, which delayed Mr Lehrmann's ACT criminal trial, in June 2022 and that she was not warned.
"They had asked me to give the speech," Ms Wilkinson said on Tuesday.
"What was always missing from Ten's public statements was that they legalled that speech, they approved that speech at the highest levels of the network."
The Logies speech, delivered eight days before those proceedings were set to begin, was dedicated to Ms Higgins and her "unwavering courage". Her allegations remained unproved in court.
In an affidavit, Ms Wilkinson said she was dropped from The Project five months after the speech due to the show's "rebrand".
"[Wilkinson's agent] also told me [Ms McGarvey] had said, because there had been too much heat on me in the months since the Logies speech - and as a result, too much 'brand damage' - it was best that I be removed from my hosting role on The Project," Ms Wilkinson said.
The seasoned journalist said she received a text from Ms McGarvey after the Logies: "Beautiful speech."
Ms Wilkinson described being "devastated" to be taken off-air.
Ten's 'pathetic excuses'
On Tuesday afternoon, Tasha Smithies, a senior litigation counsel for Ten, took the witness box.
Ms Smithies agreed she had twice seen and approved Ms Wilkinson's Logies speech and had not warned the journalist about potential risks associated with delivering it ahead of criminal proceedings.
She did not, however, accept that advice had caused the heavy media scrutiny Ms Wilkinson faced after the speech or that she had downplayed her own involvement on multiple occasions.
"I am not personally or professionally embarrassed by the advice I provided Ms Wilkinson," Ms Smithies said.
Counsel for Ms Wilkinson, Michael Elliot SC, grilled Ms Smithies about why Ten had not defended his client by stating it approved the speech and she had not acted with "deliberate recklessness".
Ms Smithies cited concerns over contempt, among other things.
Mr Elliot described this as "absolute nonsense" and said Ten was self-interested and came up with "one pathetic excuse after another" not to publicly defend Ms Wilkinson.
'Trashed in the media'
Earlier, Ms Wilkinson said her reputation "was being trashed in the media" after the speech.
"I was being blamed for giving that speech and all the blame was falling on me," she said.
The court heard the media perception was that Ms Wilkinson got on stage and spoke "pretty much off the top of my head" without considering legal ramifications.
The journalist said she "begged" Ten to publicly state it had approved her speech.
"I was asking Channel Ten to admit the role that they had played because I was being portrayed in the media as legally irresponsible," Ms Wilkinson said.
Reputation at stake
Robert Dick SC, counsel for Ten, accused Ms Wilkinson of being primarily concerned about her reputation following the Logies speech, up until she decided to hire separate counsel from her employer.
"What was driving that decision, was because you wanted someone to act for you in a way that, wherever they could, they would be trying to protect your reputation," Mr Dick said.
The barrister said the journalist's concerns were not primarily about contempt of court issues but reputation, "the need to protect it, enhance it, rehabilitate it".
Ms Wilkinson denied the claim and responded: "I wanted them to look after my legal interests, that was my primary concern."
"It was becoming increasingly obvious my concerns were different to Network Ten's."
'Completely inappropriate advice'
"Does Channel Ten say the advice that was given was anything other than completely inappropriate?" Justice Lee asked in an attempt to "cut to the chase".
Mr Dick said the network did not accept that proposition.
Justice Lee asked: "Do you accept it was inappropriate?"
Mr Dick responded: "We accept that, ultimately, given the events that happened, it did give rise to a real risk of contempt and it was unfortunate."
During the defamation trial, Justice Lee made clear his feelings about any legal advice supporting Ms Wilkinson making the Logies speech.
"It is inconceivable to me that any legally-qualified person could have given advice that a Crown witness saying what was said in that Logies speech was anything other than inadvisable and inappropriate," he said last year.
Contempt of court
Early on Tuesday morning, YouTuber Glenn Logan was late to the Federal Court.
Mr Logan was therefore not present when Justice Lee referred his conduct to the court's principle registrar and said he formed a preliminary view contempt of court proceedings should be instituted against him.
The man was previously ordered to appear after he allegedly recorded and uploaded several videos of the defamation trial to YouTube and to several of his own websites.
"Mr Logan admits the contempt," solicitor Patrick Schmidt said on Tuesday.
MORE DEFAMATION TRIAL COVERAGE:
Mr Schmidt said his client had "no nefarious intent" in uploading the videos and that he "makes full admissions".
"It was not a conscious contempt ... he was not aware of your warnings," the lawyer said.
"Should this matter proceed to a criminal charge, Mr Logan admits that he was the creator of the YouTube site responsible for the rebroadcasting at the hearing live stream."
Justice Lee has begun every sitting day by reminding anyone viewing the stream it is illegal to record and distribute any image of proceedings.
The court briefly played a video said to have been uploaded by Mr Logan.
The video included footage of the defamation trial, with one video referring to Ms Higgins as a "feminist liar" and one website titled "feminism debunked".
"Please, guys, watch my videos on a platform that is not run by feminists," the video said.
"There's a lot of people working really hard to keep these channels down."
The court heard all nine videos allegedly uploaded by Mr Logan had been removed.
The defamation trial
The evidence being heard in the cross-claim on Tuesday is also being accepted in the principle defamation proceedings brought forward by Mr Lehrmann against Ms Wilkinson and Ten.
Justice Lee has reserved his decision in the main case and it is expected in March.
The February 2021 The Project interview with Ms Higgins at the centre of proceedings did not name Mr Lehrmann as the accused rapist but he claims being identified and defamed.
Mr Lehrmann has always denied raping Ms Higgins in March 2019, when the pair worked as staffers for the then-defence industry minister.
No findings have been made against him.
- Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 6247 2525.