A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack has been charged after he allegedly sent child abuse material and engaged in explicit conversations about children with another man online.
McCormack, a long time on-air talent for the Nine Network program, was stopped on Driver Avenue at Moore Park by detectives from the Sex Crimes Squad at 7.30am on Thursday and taken to Redfern police station.
Channel Nine reporter Ben McCormack is arrested and charged with sending child pornography material.
The 42-year-old had been under investigation by the Sex Crime Squad’s child exploitation internet unit and has now been charged with using a carriage service for child pornography material.
“Police will allege in court the man was engaged in sexually explicit conversations about children with an adult male and discussed child pornography,” NSW Police said in a statement.
A search warrant was executed at McCormack’s home at Alexandria, in the city’s inner-south, and officers also raided the Willoughby office of A Current Affair, at the Nine Network studios in Sydney’s north, on Thursday morning.
Police seized computers, a mobile phone, and electronic storage devices.
McCormack was granted police bail and will appear at the Downing Centre Local Court on May 1.
He has retained the services of high-profile solicitor Sam Macedone, who regularly appears on A Current Affair, where he is often seen commenting on legal matters arising from neighborhood disputes or scam artists
The police investigation into McCormack followed a tip-off from the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation team – a joint agency task force that cracks down on crimes against children.
His arrest and charging was part of Strike Force Trawler, a police operation that is using undercover stings to catch alleged online predators.
The strike force has arrested almost one person per week this year, with many more cases passed to local police.
Those arrested have been diverse: from teenagers to 70-year-olds, school teachers, fathers, defense force members, priests, police academy students and aspiring politicians.
McCormack’s arrest was the lead item on Channel Nine’s 3pm news bulletin.
The network reported that he had been questioned but not charged, although charges might be laid on Thursday afternoon.
Nine’s news and current affairs director Darren Wick confirmed to staff that police officers had been at the network’s Willoughby offices “investigating matters relating to a staff member at A Current Affair”.
He stressed that the investigation “does not relate to the program or Nine”. He said the network was co-operating with the police.
“However, we are not in a position to comment any further as this is an ongoing investigation,” he said in a note to staff sent out following the raid.
As a reporter, McCormack had doggedly pursued child sex offenders on ACA over the years.
In 2014, he sat in court as former Hey Dad! television star Robert Hughes learned of his guilty verdict. He also phoned Hughes’ victim Sarah Monahan, who had told her story on A Current Affair, to tell her.
with Georgina Mitchell
A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack at centre of many media controversies
THE veteran A Current Affair reporter at the centre of explosive child pornography allegations has been a magnet for controversy over his decades with Channel 9.
Police arrested and charged Ben McCormack, 42, yesterday for allegedly having sexually explicit conversations about children with another man, and discussing child pornography.
The scandal has rocked Channel 9, which was raided by police yesterday, but it is not the first time the reporter has made the headlines.
Throughout a 25-year career at the network, McCormack has broken major stories — some of which have been controversial and criticised.
He was the first journalist to confront Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes and grill him about child sex abuse allegations.
McCormack tracked Hughes down for ACA in Singapore in 2010 and questioned him about whether he did abuse children, including cast members of the popular Australian sitcom, which ran for eight seasons in the 1980s and ’90s.
“I’m absolutely, totally shocked at the allegations and I deny, absolutely deny, everything,” Hughes told McCormack from his car.
A Current Affair’s reporting on the scandal helped lead to Hughes being sentenced to six years’ jail on 10 charges related to sexually abusing young girls.
While this was a genuine scoop, not all of McCormack’s reporting has been well received.
His bogus report on an “all-Asian mall” was widely condemned as racist and led to the station receiving a deluge of complaints.
On November 7, 2012, McCormack reported that a shopping centre in Castle Hill, in Sydney’s northwest, had been taken over by Asian retailers and that Australian shopkeepers were being “kicked out”.
The media watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, found that the story was not only inaccurate, it was “likely to provoke intense dislike and serious contempt” of Asian people.
Stand-in ACA host Leila McKinnon was forced to give an on-air apology for the story.
McCormack’s reporting was slammed by public relations queen Roxy Jacenko last year when ACA ran with a story entitled “Resort Roxy”, which claimed she had checked into a $7000-a-night luxury retreat with her two children the same weekend her husband Oliver Curtis was sentenced to two years’ jail for insider trading.
“Just when we thought the soap opera was finally over, the Roxy and Oliver show goes on,” McCormack said in the report.
“As her insider trader husband awaits classification within the jail system, within hours of his sentence Roxy has taken off. And you won’t believe where.”
So where was Roxy? According to the PR executive, she was hard at work in her office in Sydney.
“Really A Current Affair? … Looks like my bum and feet are firmly placed at my desk in my office. Perhaps stick to people’s fences encroaching on others’ boundaries!” she posted on Instagram.
McCormack’s journalism also made a splash in 2008 when he led a protest of disgruntled game show contestants to ambush David Koch and Melissa Doyle live on air.
ACA aired two segments in March of that year that claimed Channel 7’s short-lived National Bingo Night failed to pay participants on the show because the episodes in which they appeared were not aired.
A security guard obstructed McCormack, while Mel and Kochie were rushed back into the studio.
ACA said contestants were duped out of $15,000 cash and a car, but a Seven spokesman dismissed the stunt as an “act of desperation to try and find an audience”.
McCormack also attracted controversy in 2011 for his part in a fierce ratings war with Channel 7 rival Today Tonight for the story behind a viral YouTube video showing a teenager body-slam a bully in an Aussie school ground.
While both stations were criticised for opening their chequebooks to get the kids on camera, Media Watch actually praised McCormack’s interview with bullying victim Casey Heynes as “sensitive and moving”.
“It might even have done some good,” host Jonathan Holmes said at the time.
On his Twitter profile, McCormack describes himself as a “reporter, lifesaver, pilot, humanist, twin [and] boy band wrangler”.
When not on air, he is a decorated member of the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club.
Channel 9 suspended McCormack yesterday in light of the child pornography allegations.
He was bailed yesterday to face a charge of using a carriage service for child pornography in court on May 1.