Karl Stefanovic has reunited with Jessica Rowe in an emotional interview for the first time since she was brutally sacked from the Today show in 2007.
Rowe, now 51, had replaced Tracy Grimshaw on the breakfast program alongside Stefanovic in 2006, when she was immediately criticised for a lack of chemistry with her co-host, as well as copping personal attacks over her weight, hair and laugh.
Upon returning from maternity leave in 2007, after having a child with her husband, Nine newsreader Peter Overton, Rowe was let go over “payment disputes” with the network, though what unfolded afterwards was revelations that then-CEO Eddie McGuire had pushed for her sacking in a meeting with executives.
Appearing on the first episode of Rowe’s newly launched podcast, The Jess Rowe Big Talk Show, Stefanovic teared up as he spoke to his former co-host about the ordeal for the first time in 14 years.
“You didn’t have a guy next to you who could have helped you and protected you,” a candid Stefanovic says.
“I’m here to apologise to you, and I wish I’d been a better man. A stronger man. Not just for you, but for myself.
“Years later, when I was going through my third and fourth wave of [criticism], I was thinking, how did Jess Rowe survive?”
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The pair had only seen each other once since Rowe’s sacking – an awkward confrontation at an airport, Rowe told Stellar.
“I remember seeing Karl at an airport one year. He was walking with a bunch of people and I was walking with a bunch of people, and we just said hello, but we’d never spoken about what happened between us,” Rowe said.
“I thought this [reunion on the podcast] would be a really challenging conversation for both of us – but one we needed to have.
“Even though nearly 15 years have passed, there are some things that never leave you and feel unresolved, even though both of us have gotten on with our lives and we are both much happier people now than we were then.”
In her interview with Stellar to promote the podcast, Rowe said she wasn’t capable of taking on Channel 9 for unfair dismissal at the time.
“I didn’t have the emotional, mental or financial strength to take on Nine,” Rowe said. “And that also made me feel like a failure. Like, what message are we sending to my brand new baby girl that as women we can’t stand up; that we aren’t able to fight?
“I realised I couldn’t fight that battle then, but that hasn’t stopped me from fighting other battles down the track.”
The Jess Rowe Big Talk Show launches on the LiSTNR app from today with her first guest, Karl Stefanovic