Alasdair “Mac” Macdonald, the first husband of Ita Buttrose, is suing the ABC for defamation over his portrayal in Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo.
The NSW Supreme Court has heard he was depicted as a “selfish, irresponsible and pitiably weak man” who abandoned his family.
Scenes from the miniseries were played to the court, including a scene in which his character, played by Nathan Page, tells a pregnant Buttrose that he is leaving “to be a free spirit”.
“I want to go away for a while. I have got to think things through. I need to find myself. I need to be a free spirit,” said ‘Mac’ (Page).
He is later portrayed leaving Buttrose several days later, placing only a note on the side board. Buttrose is then shown crying and holding her pregnant belly.
Other scenes show Buttrose receiving a call from Macdonald in Brisbane while pregnant, and nursing the baby by herself after giving birth. Macdonald later returns to her in the hospital.
MacDonald has previously claimed no attempt was made to verify the facts with him before going to air and that the ABC refused to withdraw the program or offer an apology, even after he put his concerns in writing.
He wrote to the ABC in April saying the marriage lasted 13 years in all, continuing into the period after Cleo when Ita was the editor of the Women’s Weekly and after the birth of their son.
Mark Polden, acting for the ABC, said that the show depicted “an event plainly taking place 40 years ago in the 1970s” and does not imply that the plaintiff is now or still is a selfish and irresponsible man.
Ita Buttrose was a consultant on the miniseries during production.
This morning, Justice Henric Nicholas referred the parties to mediation.