Peter van Onselen ‘tormenting’ Tegan George with barbed Twitter comments in Ten bullying row lawsuit
Political expert Peter van Onselen ‘torments’ the troubled TV journalist who is suing Network Ten over her allegations of bullying at work, her law firm claims.
Tegan George, 37, has spent months in hospital with mental health issues since filing her lawsuit in February over claims she was chased out of Ten by the ‘toxic culture’ in the station’s Canberra office.
The bitter feud has spilled over onto Twitter, with Van Onselen reportedly making provocative and pointed comments online related to the case.
He is said to have questioned the veracity of her claims, labeled her lawsuit as “frivolous” and questioned “hospitalized” persons as “background journalists”.
Political expert Peter van Onselen ‘torments’ troubled TV journalist Tegan George who is suing Network Ten over her allegations of bullying at work, her law firm claims
The bitter feud has spilled over onto Twitter, with Peter van Onselen allegedly making provocative and pointed comments online related to the case
Now Ms. George’s law firm says the TV bosses “failed to stop Ten’s political editor from tormenting her in social media posts” and is demanding aggravated damages.
“Since the proceeding was issued, Mr Van Onselen has continued to attack Ms George with barbs on social media and inaccurate public comments about the case,” her lawyers say.
They claim the TV analyst’s comments came “despite a Network Ten policy that requires employees not to bully or harass people on social media.”
Van Onselen, 46, is one of several senior employees named in Ms. George’s lawsuit, alleging that Ten failed to provide her with a safe work environment at the agency.
Ms George has been on furlough since June last year after court documents allege the experience made her vomit, unable to sleep and ‘stressed to incapacity for work’.
Her claim alleges that she was also belittled for taking sick leave.
Maurice Blackburn’s Josh Bornstein said Ms George is now seeking additional damages for the conduct of Van Onselen and Ten.
‘The management of Tien has not kept Mr Van Onselen in check,’ says Mr Bornstein.
“He continued to publicly defame Ms. George after she went to court, causing her immense distress.”
The recently expanded legal action comes after Van Onselen reportedly fanned the flames of the lawsuit with online comments shortly after several stories about the case appeared on Daily Mail Australia.
The bitter feud has spilled over onto Twitter, with Peter van Onselen allegedly making provocative and sharp comments online that appear to be related to the case.
The first stories showed that editor-in-chief Anthony Murdoch said to Mrs George: ‘Peter loves bats, but we just have to get used to it’.
Court documents allege that the TV boss added that “the desk has always been toxic” and that she “had to learn to deal with it.”
Ms. George says in the lawsuit that she has tried to resolve the issues directly with Van Onselen, but he has escalated it to senior management.
She was later reportedly told that Van Onselen “didn’t care how she felt.”
Court documents allege that other comments from senior executives to or about Ms. George included:
• ‘What did you actually do today? Paint your nails and drink herbal tea?’
• ‘Nobody even likes her’
• “(If I had that many sick days and headaches, I’d have my damn head checked.”
Ms. George also claims that she was banned and left out of coffee meetings with Van Onselen and other colleagues.
George claims that the project’s host sent these tweets to her but didn’t mention her by name
After the first details of the lawsuit became known – including claims that journalists were tasked with building Van Onselen’s brand – he is said to have fired back on Twitter.
“Allegations are not always correct,” Van Onselen tweeted on March 27.
“Sometimes they say more about who is pointing the finger without any real evidence. Most of us don’t know enough to form a judgment.’
He then followed a tweet on May 18, the lawyers say.
“Fan abuse of the federal court must really be eradicated…,” he is said to have tweeted. The tweet is now not visible.
The law firm claims that later that day, Van Onselen “publicly mocked Ms. George” for her hospital stay, which they say was “a result of her treatment.”
‘What do you think about whether the hospitalized journalists have backgrounds? Seek attention. Very sincere question.’ he tweeted to the alleged rape victim in parliament, Brittany Higgins, when she confronted him about the line.
He also made a series of references to drinking coffee in an apparent joke at Mrs. George.
Tegan George (pictured) has worked as a political reporter in the press gallery for Ten since 2019, but has been on leave since June 2021 with a ‘personal injury’ caused by ‘stress to the point of incapacity for work’
Her legal claim has now been expanded in the wake of the new spat, alleging Ms George has been further victimized for exercising her right to go to court under the Fair Work Act.
They also added new claims that Ms. George had to work in a workplace that was hostile to women, in violation of the Sex Discrimination Act.
She is also now demanding a court order to enforce annual training, with monitoring, on victimization, bullying and gender inequality at Ten.
Mr Bornstein said the Fair Work Act contains important protections for employees who are aware of workplace issues.
Tien seems to think that Mr Van Onselen is more important than other employees and is free to do as he pleases regardless of the consequences.
“It is extraordinary that the network is not acting as a responsible employer in this matter.”
Ms George joined Ten in 2011 and was appointed to the Canberra office in 2019.
The statement of claim alleges that multiple instances of adverse action were taken against Ms George after she first filed a complaint with Van Onselen in February 2020.
Maurice Blackburn’s Josh Bornstein said Ms George now demanded extra aggravated damages for Ten and Peter van Onselen’s behavior
Ms George met with management a week later and claimed she was told Van Onselen was expecting an apology from her for “hurting his feelings.”
It is alleged that he then avoided talking to Ms. George and instructed him to work at another desk.
Last month, Van Onselen told the Daily Mail Australia: ‘I am very much looking forward to fully venting the truth about these extremely irritating claims as soon as I am able to.’
Ten deny the allegations and have requested that 20 of the claims be dropped because they are ‘vague’ and ’embarrassing’.
The network denies that senior editors, including Van Onselen, have ignored, undermined or humiliated her, alleging that Ms. George took text messages out of context.
Their legal defense also alleges that Ms. George refused to be involved in the sexual harassment investigation, but denies threatening her with disciplinary action.
They also deny Ten denies previous tweets from Van Onselen in 2021 that referred to Ms George and said Van Onselen had offered his support, with new terms of employment set out in text messages sent to her in 2020.
Ten will file a defense against the new allegations at a later date.