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  • Leonardo Puglisi

Conspiracy theories about ABC presenters wearing 'mourning clothes for George Pell' completely false

In more than 80% of the bulletins we found, black was not being worn by the presenter.

In the days since the death of Cardinal George Pell on Wednesday (local time), conspiracy theories have emerged online - mainly on Twitter - suggesting almost all news presenters on the ABC have been wearing the colour black since he died because they are “mourning” Pell.


A viral screenshot shows ABC Weekend Breakfast presenters Fauziah Ibrahim and Johanna Nicholson both supposedly wearing black on Saturday - although on closer inspection, Nicholson is wearing dark (or navy) blue.


While 6 News does not aim to judge or comment on what other journalists wear (I personally barely change suits), we have decided to see if any of those claims about “mourning clothes all week” really stack up.


Spoiler alert: they don’t.


All ABC 7pm bulletins for each state and territory are available on ABC iView, so we’re going to be looking at that specifically. Since a lot of the focus is on Fauziah Ibrahim, we will also look at Weekend Breakfast’s broadcasts on Saturday and Sunday.


And, since we can find it - ABC News at Noon and ABC News Afternoons (the latter only airing on weekdays) also get included.


Full episodes of ABC News Breakfast are not available on iView, but we have managed to find some clips and screenshots. Likewise, many bulletins on the ABC News Channel are also not accessible as the livestream on YouTube only goes back 12 hours - and many are also not on iView - but we’ll try and include as much as we can too.


One final thing: we’re also including Monday and Tuesday (before Pell died) to see if presenters were wearing black anyway, since some have claimed they only started wearing it after his death.


The key findings


Only 1 presenter appeared to be wearing black on the day Pell died - Tasmania's Guy Stayner. However, when speaking to him we were able to confirm it was in fact a dark blue suit instead.


Joe O'Brien, the presenter of ABC News Mornings (which we did not include as we could not find last Monday's broadcast) was wearing what looked to be black - but he also wore it on Tuesday, and in addition was on-air before the news of Pell's death actually broke.


87.2% of the bulletins we found had a presenter in something other than black. Weekend Breakfast was split up into 2 columns (due to its dual presenters).

For our full raw database, click here.


When asked if their presenters were being forced to wear black, the ABC provided us with this statement:


"It is nonsense."

CONCLUSION: ABC presenters were not wearing black "all week" to "mourn George Pell," with 87.2% of bulletins in the week Pell died - including Monday and Tuesday before his death - seeing the presenter (or presenters) wearing something other than black.


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