Former Dateline executive producer Peter Charley has detailed how he orchestrated two undercover reporters into the National Rifle Association of America for the Al Jazeera documentary How to Sell a Massacre.
Charley created the fake pro-gun group Gun Rights Australia, and appointed Rodger Muller as its founder & president.
Writing for ABC he wrote:
It all started in 2015 with a ride to the airport. I was driving from Washington DC to make a flight overseas when I heard a report on the radio of yet another mass shooting in America.
As details of the killings were being broadcast, I happened to be driving through Fairfax, Virginia, right past the headquarters of the National Rifle Association of America.
I glanced at the building and wondered, “What are they saying in there about what I’m hearing out here?”
The NRA’s public reaction on a massacre tend to follow a pattern: stay quiet for as long as possible and then, if the media persists, attack them as anti-gun activists, even “silent enablers” of the tragedy.
So, I decided to find a way to get into the organisation to hear for myself what America’s most powerful gun lobby group says behind closed doors about such events.
Muller’s mission was to befriend officials within the NRA by expressing concern about Australia’s laws being too strict, using concealed cameras and microphones to record unguarded discussions.
In the process he filmed meetings between One Nation chief of staff, James Ashby, and Steve Dickson, One Nation’s Queensland leader with NRA organisers.
Charley also hired a second undercover reporter Diana Armata*, who presented herself as Muller’s communications director.
She constructed and maintained the Gun Rights Australia website and helped build a layered back-story for Mr Muller which involved a series of videos filmed in Australia and the US in which he called for a ‘sensible debate’ about the roll-back of the post-Port Arthur laws.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has since criticised the documentary as a “hit piece” and referred it to ASIO. James Ashby and Steve Dickson have blamed their discussions as being “on the sauce.”
Part 2 of How to Sell a Massacre screens 8pm Thursday on ABC.
* not her real name.