Ben Roberts Smith VC MG is an executive with Channel 7.
This hatchet job is courtesy of the newly minted Nine-Fairfax smear merchants.
Here's a wordcount:
When Malcolm Turnbull gave a speech four months ago about the struggle some veterans faced readjusting to civilian life, it was hard to ignore the man towering behind him in the Great Hall of Parliament House.
Hands clasped and head slightly bowed, Australia's most decorated Afghanistan veteran, Ben Roberts-Smith, stood on stage with the Prime Minister as a living testament to success after the military.
Having received a Victoria Cross for bravery during an assault on the Afghan village of Tizak in 2010 – an award that was preceded by a Medal for Gallantry and followed by a Commendation for Distinguished Service – Roberts-Smith was in the midst of a seemingly successful transition into corporate life.
The transformation from battlefield to boardroom was significant. For 10 years, Roberts-Smith had served with Australia's Special Air Service Regiment, a unit of elite soldiers who are mostly not allowed to speak about their work.
Receiving the Commonwealth's ultimate bravery award made Roberts-Smith an instant celebrity. His agent began charging thousands to corporate clients to hear not only from "the most decorated soldier in the Commonwealth" but a man who had also been named "Australian Father of the Year".
He was appointed chairman of the Australia Day Council, the deputy chairman of the Prime Minister's defence mental health committee and veterans' employment committee. He became the public face of a campaign against "one punch" violence and the "Stay Kind" campaign, which urges Australians to look after vulnerable mates.
He helped select domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty as an Australian of the Year. The award ceremony produced an evocative image of the 196-centimetre warrior gently comforting a tearful Batty.
The photograph fitted his public ethos, which was to value "moral courage" above physical prowess and "cherish your family every single day".
There's much more of the smear and innuendo at the SMH - then this.
Denials and accusations
For his part, Roberts-Smith traces the complaints about his behaviour to the awarding of the VC in 2011. His forceful, driven personality – one shared by many in the regiment – stoked resentment.
When queried about this last year, he said: "I am hard, I get that, but there is no one I beat up harder than myself. You are supposed to be better. If not, you should not be there. Because if you make a mistake, someone is going to die."
His supporters insist the allegations stem from envy, most particularly from disgruntled veterans. Roberts-Smith's defamation lawyer also blames sensationalist journalists for seeking to bring down a war hero through a "smear campaign".
Ross Coulthart – a former TV investigative journalist who is now a public relations consultant for a firm, Cato and Clegg – is working closely with Roberts-Smith and his lawyer on his own investigation into Fairfax Media's reporting.
Coulthart has interviewed SAS soldiers close to Roberts-Smith and is privately insisting to people linked to Channel Seven there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. However, he and the PR firm's Sue Cato have declined to share that evidence. Publicly, Coulthart refuses even to say who he is working for.
Roberts-Smith has previously decried his critics as hypocrites, saying: "The bullying is what they do to me. Bullies are cowards. They stay in the shadows. This is about group cowardice. I don't like bullies. I am sick of it."
He has been unequivocal he has no questions to answer in respect of any of his actions in Afghanistan.
"I've been under the microscope for the last six years and, you know what, my record is spotless," he said in a newspaper interview when questions about his conduct in Afghanistan first emerged publicly in October 2017.
Ben appears to be fair game for the innuendo and smear merchants.
Try to imagine Fairfax running something based on the hard concrete evidence against Gillard and you'll have a fairly good insight into the state of this country's media and its priorities.