Australia

'It's all gossip': Morrison dismisses claims he wanted Hillsong pastor at White House event

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Hillsong founder Brian Houston has backed Scott Morrison in dismissing claims he was invited to accompany the PM to Washington.

The Hillsong pastor at the centre of a kerfuffle over a reportedly refused invitation to the White House says the entire story is a baseless rumour.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Prime Minister had sought an invitation for Hillsong founder Brian Houston to join him at events that were part of the official state visit to Washington this week, but was knocked back by the White House.

But Mr Houston said the whole story was wrong.

Pastor Brian Houston faces the royal commission.
Pastor Brian Houston faces the royal commission.
Royal Commission

"I have had no invitation to the White House and I have had no discussion with the prime minister or anyone else about this," he said in a statement on Sunday.

"Hillsong Church received no enquiry from any party as to my details or availability.

"As far as I'm concerned this is baseless rumour and totally false news."

Mr Houston, the founder of the evangelical Hillsong Church, was censured by the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, for failing to alert the police about allegations his father, Frank, sexually assaulted children.

 President Donald J. Trump (R) and Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison (L) toast as they speak in the Rose Garden outside the White House.
President Donald J. Trump (R) and Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison (L) toast as they speak in the Rose Garden outside the White House.
EPA

The 2014 royal commission found Frank Houston had abused up to nine boys in Australia and New Zealand.

Lachlan Murdoch Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and Gina Rinehart and golfer Greg Norman were on the guestlist for the black-tie event.

But Mr Morrison would not comment on the story or the guestlist.

"I don't comment on gossip or stories about other stories," he told reporters in Washington.

"It's all gossip."

President and Mrs Trump welcome Scott and Jenny Morrison for a State Dinner at the White House.
President and Mrs Trump welcome Scott and Jenny Morrison for a State Dinner at the White House.
AAP

Asked four times whether that meant it was not true, the PM  repeated that it was gossip, then said: "I think I've answered the question".

Labor MP Chris Bowen said it was up to the prime minister to explain the situation.

“He seems incapable of answering any question he doesn’t want to answer,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“That’s his modus operandi, he just says it’s gossip."

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