Morrison Admits He Asked White House To Invite Hillsong Founder To Dinner
After months of dismissing it as "gossip", Scott Morrison has finally confirmed he did put controversial Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston forward for an invitation to a White House dinner with Donald Trump.
"I've known Brian for a long time and Hillsong Church has a very big network of churches across the United States," Morrison told 2GB radio on Tuesday.
"On that occasion, we put forward a number of names, that included Brian. But not everybody whose names were put forward were invited."
Morrison had previously batted away questions on several occasions about whether he had put Houston's name forward as "gossip", saying "I don't feel the need to comment on those things".
The Wall Street Journal claimed in September 2019 that Morrison had asked the White House for Houston to be included as part of the official delegation for his state visit to Washington D.C.
According to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Houston failed to alert police to abuse allegations against his father and he had a conflict of interest when he assumed responsibility for dealing with the accusations.
On Tuesday, Morrison commented on the request for Houston to be invited to the U.S., saying Hillsong had a large network in America.
The PM noted that while Houston was not included as part of the September visit, that he was later invited to the White House by Donald Trump.
"I'm not quite sure what the accusation is about that," Morrison said.
When asked by2GB host Ben Fordham whether he was aware of Houston being under police investigation over his failure to report his father's abuse, Morrison replied "they're not things I follow closely".
Tuesday's confirmation comes after Morrison dodged questions about Houston on several occasions since the WSJ report.
"I don't think it's helpful David. I mean there's one un-published source, comment," he told then-Sky News host David Speers in October when asked about the claim.
"I'm not going to go into the habit of just because one journalist somewhere in the world talks to someone who won't put their name to it, and all of a sudden apparently we got to play 20 questions. That's just not how I'm going operate. If people have an established source who’s prepared to put their names to things well that's a different matter," he said at the time.
At a press conference during his U.S. visit in September, shortly after the WSJ report was published, Morrison simply rubbished the article as "gossip".
"I don't comment on gossip or stories about other stories," he said.
When asked by a journalist if that answer meant he was saying the report was untrue, Morrison replied: "it means it's gossip."