Dr. Teo’s media war – Media Watch | Techy Kings


But now to the story of a celebrity surgeon and his celebrity media followers:

ADVERTISEMENT: It’s a question that needs an answer: why can’t Australia’s most famous brain surgeon…

DR CHARLIE TEO: I think I’m the best.

ADS: Operating in own country? Kate McClymont walks through the real shocking story…

A major investigation, 12 months chasing the truth.

– 60 Minutes campaign, Nine Network, October 2022

On 60 Minutes last week, and over the top of Nine, one of the country’s top investigative reporters, Kate McClymont, presented shocking allegations – which he denies – against renowned neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo, who the medical authorities have effectively banned from operating in Australia while they investigate:

KATE MCCLYMONT: Tonight we hear from heartbroken patients who paid a heavy price after Dr. Teo convinced them that miracles can happen in his hands.

– 60 Minutes, Nine Network, 23 October 2022

It was powerful stuff – patients left worse off after risky surgery:

SARAH HIGGINBOTTOM: When Gene jumped back into the car I said “is that good or bad?” and he just shook his head and I just started crying right away. All the way home.

– 60 Minutes, Nine Network, 23 October 2022

It was, as McClymont explained, a very different story to the one many in the media like to tell about Teo:

KATE MCCLYMONT: Charlie Teo’s self-proclaimed surgical superiority and heroic results have been glorified by the media for years. They took on the motorcycle-riding rebel who fearlessly took on the medical establishment and bravely acted when others said nothing more could be done.

– 60 Minutes, Nine Network, 23 October 2022

So it’s no surprise that when McClymont’s stories landed, a media civil war broke out, particularly at Nine, where Dr Teo’s long-time friends helped him counter the damaging revelations.

Teo had declined an interview on 60 Minutes. But he accepted the chance to appear on A Current Affair and after that his defense began in earnest on Nine’s Today show, where Karl Stefanovic announced:

KARL STEFANOVIC: Just before we get cracking, I just wanted to also say and acknowledge that both Alex and I are ambassadors for the Charlie Teo Foundation and we will continue to be.

– Today, Nine Network, 26 October 2022

Alex is Alex Cullen, today’s newsreader. But conflict of interest be damned, Karl participated in the interview anyway.

And when Allison Langdon asked the questions that needed to be asked, he threw in soft balls like this:

KARL STEFANOVIC: … there’s a constant reference to you as being money-hungry and, you know, wanting, extorting large sums of money. I have known you for a long time and never knew that you are…

DR CHARLIE TEO: I’m driven by the patients. I mean, it’s that simple.

– Today, Nine Network, 26 October 2022

And not satisfied with that defence, Stefanovic took to the Daily Mail at the weekend to heap even more praise on the doctor, calling the criticism a “hope”:

‘I would hate to see this guy and all his talent eradicated from a profession he is so gifted in. It would be a travesty.

– Daily Mail, 29 October 2022

Karl has since apologized to Nine colleagues for speaking out, the network confirmed today. And we understand there was significant outrage in the Herald newsroom that he was undermining their work.

But Karl was not the combative doctor’s only friend in House Nine. There was another one of 2 GB:

BEN FORDHAM: … what they’re suggesting here, your critics, is that you’re some kind of money-hungry egomaniac who just wants to take people’s money and risk people’s lives. But that’s not the business you’re in. You’re in the business to save lives. And on the money front, I mean, do you need the money?

DR CHARLIE TEO: Legs. Again, I find this incredibly abhorrent.

– Ben Fordham Live, 2GB, 26 October 2022

And Ben Fordham, it seemed, agreed:

BEN FORDHAM: … I’m just asking you these questions that come from your critics, they don’t come from me. I’m on the record many times as saying, and I will say it until the day I die, I’ve met so many families who love what you’ve done for them.

– Ben Fordham Live, 2GB, 26 October 2022

Ben Fordham is hosting a fundraiser for the Charlie Teo Foundation on Sydney Harbor later this month. VIP tickets are billed as “a night of hope” and cost $500 a pop.

But Teo has links to other Nine presenters. Richard Wilkins, Peter Overton, Jim Wilson and Chris Smith are all listed as ambassadors for the Charlie Teo Foundation.

And Smith is another who has blown Teo’s case:

CHRIS SMITH: So there you are overseas doing pro-bono surgery, teaching and lecturing, because the world wants and needs your skills. But at home they try to throw you away…

– Chris Smith Tonight, Sky News Australia, 25 September 2022

Meanwhile, as The Sydney Morning Herald and two medical watchdogs investigated cases of Dr Teos gone tragically wrong, News Corp’s Daily Telegraph stepped in and championed the doctor:

Dying patients asking for help

No other doctor will operate

But the top surgeon has his hands tied

– The Sunday Telegraph, 25 September 2022

That front-page splash landed four weeks before Nine’s investigation along with four more pages showcasing the surgeon’s success stories.

Then nine days ago, on the eve of Nine’s exposé, readers were hit with another double-page spread.

And on Saturday, Tele gave Teo more real estate to respond to his critics and the 60 Minutes allegations.

Along with another patient’s miracle survival story.

And who does Teo have to thank for all these positive stories? Reporter Cydonee Mardon, who has her own conflict when it comes to Teo – not as an ambassador, but as a success story herself.

As she revealed five years ago:

I was 37 when the surgeon told me I had brain cancer

– Illawarra Mercury, 19 August 2017

Cydonee Mardon survived, thanks to Dr. Teo’s intervention.

And while Saturday’s coverage revealed her relationship as a former patient, not all of her stories do. Considering how many she writes, we think they all should.

And what about Teo’s TV and radio friends at Nine? A spokesperson for Nine told us:

The interviews … were handled appropriately by all our employees. All connections were explained and Teo was questioned independently at each instance without bias.

– Email, Nine Entertainment spokesperson, 28 October 2022

Without bias? Really?

Whether they should be ambassadors at all, Nine says that is a matter for them.

Teo is without a doubt a life saver. He has also faced serious allegations from patients and his own colleagues.

Getting to the truth is what real journalism is all about. Charlie’s media fan boys and girls should stay far away.


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