Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to the controversy about a planned episode of the ABC's Four Corners program which was reportedly set to examine his links to a leading figure in the Australian QAnon online cult.
The episode was slated to potentially run next week but was "pulled" by ABC bosses amid ongoing tensions between the federal government and the public broadcaster, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday night.
Mr Morrison said on Friday he has no involvement or support "for such a dangerous organisation".
Previous reporting has linked the prime minister to a leading presence in the Australian QAnon community who had tweeted under the name @BurnedSpy34. The account – like most QAnon accounts – has since been suspended.
The owner of the account was reported to be Tim Stewart, a close friend of Mr Morrison. His wife has been on the prime minister's staff, The Guardian reported in 2019, adding there was evidence she shared her husband's views.
While the utterly unhinged beliefs of the sprawling and disjointed online community are fluid, at the centre of the conspiracy group is a belief of a shadowy 'deep state' in the United States government and powerful forces who are hiding and protecting a satanic paedophile ring.
QAnon followers recently believed Donald Trump was a messiah-like figure who was secretly fighting the elite paedophile cabal.
PM 'deeply' offended by suggestion of QAnon ties
When asked about the reported ABC episode on Friday afternoon, Mr Morrison called it "deeply offensive" to suggest he was connected to the conspiracy group.
"I find it deeply offensive there would be any suggestion I would have any involvement or support for such a dangerous organisation. I clearly do not," he told reporters in Canberra.
"It is just also disappointing that Four Corners in their inquiries would seek to cast this aspersion, not just against me but by members of my own family.
"I just think that is really poor form."
ABC rejects claims it has pulled QAnon episode
On Thursday night, the ABC quickly responded to reports it had pulled the episode, saying the suggestion was "misleading and mischievous".
"The decision to publish is only made once all editorial and legal requirements have been met and it is appropriate to do so," ABC Communications tweeted.
According to the SMH, the episode had already cleared legal and editorial hurdles at the ABC.
ABC news director, Gaven Morris, reportedly referred the episode to the broadcaster's managing director, David Anderson, who has asked for more information on material in the episode.
It's unclear if, or when, the episode will air.
According to The Guardian, the episode is reported by the Walkley award-winning journalist Louise Milligan, who was recently sued by former attorney-general Christian Porter over an article which raised historical rape claims against a then unnamed government minister.
On Monday the ABC announced Mr Porter's defamation action against Ms Milligan and the broadcaster would not continue.
QAnon has become a notable force in conservative politics in the United States with proponents of the group winning seats in the US congress. During his time as president, Donald Trump repeatedly refused to condemn the group despite it being listed by the FBI as a domestic terror threat. Instead he increasingly encouraged the online community, saying they "love our country".
The Prime Minister's office did not respond to questions put to it by Yahoo News Australia.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.