The full, explosive texts between Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and columnist Peter FitzSimons have been revealed after the pair became engaged in a nasty feud following a recent phone interview.
Senator Price, who is an Indigenous woman, claimed she felt “bullied” by FitzSimons during the interview and alleged he accused her of “giving racists a voice”.
In a now-deleted post, the Country Liberal Party Senator took to Facebook on Sunday evening after interview on Thursday was published, claiming FitzSimons was “very bloody aggressive”.
FitzSimons, a Sydney Morning Herald columnist and husband to Lisa Wilkinson, denied her claims, which he described “complete and utter … nonsense”.
He told The Australian it was a “friendly interview [with a] nice text exchange at its conclusion”.
Now, the full text exchange between the pair following the publication of the column has been revealed, with screenshots provided to news.com.au.
Screenshots of the messages show a furious FitzSimons accusing Senator Price of “defamatory accusations” and urging her to withdraw her claims.
“You have told The Australian we shouted at each other? Every word recorded, as I advised you. And happy to hand to the Fairfax lawyers,” the text from the columnist read.
“Beyond which, your texts to me above show our friendly exchange. Senator, I urge you to withdraw these defamatory accusations, as you know it is nonsense.”
The Senator responded by saying “we did yell at each other” and claimed he accused her of “empowering racists”, before asking for a copy of the interview.
The Senator has previously said she felt FitzSimons’ accusation of being racially divisive came from his opposition to her concern over the proposed Voice to Parliament and continued support for Australia Day to remain on January 26.
“Senator, You must forget I recorded the entire interview. Not a single raised voice on either side, let alone ‘shouting’,” FitzSimons responded in the text exchange.
“This is a serious matter, Senator, and you have defamed me. I will vigorously pursue my rights, and advise you to immediately withdraw your accusations. Have you said this on Sky? Tape with lawyers. Peter.”
Senator Price pushed back, claiming she never said the word “shouting” and recalled she did have to yell as did her Chief of Staff who was present during the interview.
FitzSimons said he also had a “witness” on his end during the interview but that it didn’t matter as it was all recorded.
“The Australian is saying you said that I ‘yelled’ at you was ‘aggressive and rude’. You know that is simply not true, and I invite you to withdraw, quickly. I repeat, every word recorded! As you were advised,” he wrote.
Senator Price ended the conversation by saying: “Please stop bullying me. I don’t ever want to communicate with you again.”
This comes as Sydney Morning Herald editor Bevan Shields has backed FitzSimons, revealing he had now listened to the full interview with Senator Price.
“There was no yelling and no shouting from either participant. This was an interesting interview in which the senator’s positions and views were tested,” he wrote on Twitter.
Shields called on The Australian to “move on”.
He also claimed the Senator approved a transcript provided by FitzSimons of what he planned to publish in his column.
“She also deleted her initial Facebook post about the interview,” he added.
Senator Price told The Australian she deleted the post because she felt “intimidated” by the journalist’s threat.
In an interview with Sky News Australia on Tuesday evening, Senator Price said she would be “very happy” for the recording of her discussion with FitzSimons to be publicly shared.
“I’d be very happy with that. I felt quite uncomfortable, and I’d be quite happy for the public to listen to that interview themselves,” she told the program.
“It’s hard to swallow, being a product of reconciliation myself, to be accused in this way (of being racially divisive) … it does speak to the fact it is difficult for Indigenous women, particularly conservative Indigenous women, to be accepted,” she said.
“We have always been expected to toe the line for the benefit of our race as an entirety, and Indigenous rights over our own individual rights as women. I come up against this wall a lot, and I’m determined to smash it because it is a racial stereotype and I don’t toe the line in terms of racial stereotypes.”
FitzSimons has maintained their interview was conducted “in an engaged, pleasant manner” and the accusation of bullying was “simply not true”.