A News Limited columnist has been chastised by Insider's host Barrie Cassidy on live TV after suggesting rumours about Tim Mathieson's sexuality had been circulating in the Canberra press gallery since 2010.
"A lot of people in the Canberra gallery have been saying the same thing [as sacked Perth shock jock Howard Sattler]," Piers Ackerman said on the ABC program this morning.
Akerman tried to get his fellow panellists Lenore Taylor and Malcolm Farr to agree with him but they refused before Cassidy stepped in and interrupted the columnist.
"You've just done precisely what Howard Sattler did and passed on rumours and that's just as pathetic, quite frankly," Cassidy said.
Akerman immediately tried to defend himself saying "I don't think I did pass on rumours".
"I just passed on the same question people said initially when she [Julia Gillard] moved in. And nobody took it any further and that's why I'm saying [Sattler] was wrong Barrie," he said.
But Cassidy was not impressed, saying "Alright, okay, have fun protecting that position".
Later in the show Akerman apologised to Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson.
"If the Prime Minister is watching, as she usually does, I hope she hasn't taken any offence at anything I've said this morning," he said.
The exchange was trending on Twitter throughout Sunday with many commentators applauding Cassidy and saying Ackerman had come off looking "amazingly bad".
"Barrie smackdown of Piers: plaudits to Cassidy on this exposure of Akerman's grubbiness," Jack Sumner said.
"I thought Howard Sattler had Tool of the Month locked up, but what a spectacular bid by Piers Ackerman for the Crown," Sarah Joseph said.
Others speculated whether Ackerman would lose his spot on the ABC show, including Greg Jericho who said: "If you like watching Piers on #insiders, best enjoy the final thoughts segment. Might be your last chance."
The ABC has not responded to questions about Ackerman's position on the show.
Perth's Fairfax-owned radio station 6PR sacked Satter on Friday after he asked Julia Gillard to comment on rumours her partner Tim Mathieson was gay.
Author: Alys Francis. Approving editor: Emily O'Keefe.