AAP FactCheck has examined a Facebook post from June 24, 2019, circulating text allegedly taken from a transcript of an interview between ABC journalist and presenter Leigh Sales and former governor-general and chief of the defence force, Peter Cosgrove.
The undated text centres on Sir Peter and Sales discussing a boy scout group’s visit to the former general’s military headquarters. At the time of publishing this article, the post had been shared more than 138 times and had attracted more than 150 comments and 280 reactions.
In the alleged transcript, Sales queries the wisdom of teaching the boy scouts to shoot.
“Leigh Sales: Shooting! That’s a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?
General Cosgrove: I don’t see why, they’ll be properly supervised on the rifle range.
Leigh Sales: Don’t you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?
General Cosgrove: I don’t see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.
Leigh Sales: But you’re equipping them to become violent killers.
General Cosgrove: Well, Ma’am, you’re equipped to be a prostitute, but you’re not one, are you?”
The script in this Facebook post has been circulating the internet in various forms since 1997 and has been attributed to a number of different people over the years.
In 1997, the “prostitute” comment was attributed to a youth club leader called Jones who was allegedly being interviewed on a Welsh regional radio station. The Welsh text is almost identical to the June 2019 Facebook post.
In 1999 and 2001, the controversial remark was Americanised and attributed to a Lieutenant General Reinwald, who was said to have been interviewed on US radio network NPR.
According to the fact checking unit Snopes in this September 2000 article titled ‘Teaching Boy Scout to Shoot’, the US Army denied the existence of a Lt Gen Reinwald and said the transcript was a hoax. An NPR spokesperson also told Snopes “the story is false – the dialogue mentioned was not an NPR interview, and it never aired on any NPR program.”
An Australian version of the transcript emerged in 2008 when a listener sent it to 2GB radio broadcaster Alan Jones. Framing it as an ABC radio interview with “Major General Peter Cosgrove”, Jones read the transcript on air, saying it included the best put-down in “a million years”.
Jones admitted a few minutes later one of his producers had advised him he’d “been caught again” by a fake. The transcript, which Jones said he’d read out in good faith, was an “urban myth”. He urged his listeners to check material before sending it to him. “It was quite a good line nonetheless, no matter who said it,” Jones said on air after admitting his error.
The ABC TV program Media Watch highlighted the incident in a segment aired in May 2008.
The transcript went viral in 2013 on Facebook when it was again attributed to “General Cosgrove” and an ABC interviewer, according to a report in The Australian newspaper. At that time, the fake transcript had been shared more than 18,000 times.
The former defence chief told The Australian getting rid of the hoax was like “catching smoke” and it was “a sad reality of the information age”. “It is almost like a tennis ball rocketing around the place,” he said. “You think it’s had its go and when anybody mentions it to me I say, ‘I don’t talk like that’, and then it goes away.”
In the comments on the Facebook post from June 24, 2019, the author admits the transcript is a joke, writing “some people need to get their heads out of their arses and learn to laugh at life”.
However, it’s clear the majority of people who commented on the text believed it to be true. The comments included: “That’s gold logie shit….. Hahaha”; “Fantastic comment from the GG as he is not the Politically correct trash like politicians”, and “general Cosgrove, thank you so much for that comment you are a legend in my book”.
Based on this analysis, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. Different versions of the transcript have been circulating the internet for two decades. Even though it has been denied and debunked on numerous occasions, it keeps re-emerging and being shared.
False – The text is not a portion of a transcript from an interview between ABC TV journalist Leigh Sales and former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove.
First published July 3, 2019 10:57 AEST