The ABC has apologised after incorrectly suggesting the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy had observed a controversial dance performance at the opening of a Navy ship.
The twerking dancers from the 101 Doll Squadron troupe performed a routine for several minutes ahead of the official commissioning ceremony for the $2 billion naval vessel HMAS Supply on the weekend.
Video posted on the ABC’s social media channels appeared to show Governor-General David Hurley, Chief of Navy Michael Noonan and Chief of Defence Angus Campbell as part of the audience during the routine.
But Mr Hurley’s office and a Defence spokesperson both later confirmed the performance had occurred before the Governor-General and Vice Admiral Noonan had arrived.
The ABC has acknowledged the error and apologised.
“ABC News’ original social media video about the Royal Australian Navy’s launch event for HMAS Supply on the weekend featured a performance by dance group 101 Doll Squadron that included cut-away shots showing Governor-General David Hurley, the Chief of Navy and the Chief of Defence observing the performance,” the ABC said in a statement today.
“This was incorrect. While the Chief of Defence was present, the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy in fact arrived after the performance.
“Our reporting team initially believed they were present both because they were shown in footage of the event and because a Government MP had said that they were present.
“The video should not have been edited in that way and the ABC apologises to the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy, and to viewers, for this error.”
The national broadcaster said it had amended its online story and the incorrect edit did not make last night’s 7pm news.
Mr Hurley’s office issued a sternly worded statement today over the broadcast.
“The performance occurred before the Governor-General arrived,” a statement from Mr Hurley’s office said.
“The presentation of the video to suggest otherwise was disappointing.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison would not be drawn on the appropriateness of the performance but said it was “disrespectful” to suggest dignitaries had been in attendance.
“It is disappointing that Australians were so misled on that issue,” he said in Perth today.
“I will leave that to Defence because it is clear much of the reporting that we have seen of that matter that has been provided to Australians, in this case by the ABC, was wrong, was false and was misleading.
“I think the ABC should be reflecting on that.”
The troupe, which has deleted its social media pages in the wake of the controversy, labelled the ABC’s editing of their performance as “creepy”.
“The 101 Doll Squadron members have been under personal attack on all media platforms since the weekend and we now feel unsafe. The media which purports to support women have been the most virulent,” the group said in a statement to media.
“We are very disappointed at the ABC’s deceptive editing of their video piece which cut to guests and dignitaries who were not in attendance and shooting from angles which could not be seen by the audience.
“We found this very creepy and reflects more on the ABC’s camera operator and their need to sexualise these women and their dance piece for their own gratification.
“These are the images appearing in the media and the ABC have a lot to answer for in making us feel threatened and exploited.”
The ABC denied its coverage of the dance was unusual in any way.
“The ABC’s footage of the dance performance was shot in a standard manner, from the same position as other parts of the ceremony,” it said in its statement.
The choice of the dancers has been slammed as inappropriate for the occasion, with Defence Minister Peter Dutton confirming he had reprimanded the event organisers.
Senator Jacqui Lambie, who formerly served with the Army, told Today the decision was an “absolute shocker”.
“Good on those young ladies for getting out there, but I tell you, being half-clothed outside a warship is probably inappropriate,” she said.
“If that is the leadership in our defence forces, God help our sons and daughters who are serving.”