Leigh Sales has opened up about the "hard toll" of one of the most coveted TV jobs in her first interview since announcing she would be stepping down from hosting ABC's 7.30.
The ABC journalist has been working at the program for 12 years, and announced in February she would be stepping down in June after the Federal Election. Following her announcement, the ABC revealed award-winning investigative journalist Sarah Ferguson would take over the role.
Speaking to Stellar Magazine in her first interview since stepping down, Leigh spoke about how trolling from the Australian public impacted her and those closest to her, and why she deleted her Twitter account in April.
“People have reported that I left because there was an interview with Scott Morrison and then I was abused,” she said about quitting Twitter.
“But I was abused all the time, so actually that had nothing to do with it.
“I just decided to jump off before the election because I thought the level of the trolling would ramp right up.”
She added people had made threats against her and she was concerned the trolling could "translate into real-life violence".
“I have two protective violence orders on me from random people who’ve made threats against me. There have been others where police have looked at them and recommended certain courses of action,” she told Stellar.
“I don’t know for sure that that’s related to that online mentality, but I think it certainly wouldn’t help, particularly the level of misinformation that’s out there; this constant narrative that I’m attempting to back in one side of politics or the other, which is completely false.”
Leigh said that the online abuse also took a "hard toll" on people close to her.
"Because I think they feel like they can't protect me from it. Because they know me as a person, they feel that it's unfair and I don't deserve it," she said.
'Tried to call out bulls**t'
When Leigh announced she would be stepping down, she said it was time to "take a break".
"I hope it's been obvious that I've always approached this job with one goal – and that is to ask frank questions of people in power, without fear or favour, that a fair-minded, reasonable person with some common sense watching at home might like to ask if they were sitting in my position," she said.
"I've tried to shut down and call out bulls**t, hold powerful people to account, expose lies, incompetence and exaggeration in all political parties and all issues and present facts even when they're unpopular or inconvenient.
"I have truly tried my absolute hardest on behalf of you at home to do that every single time I've sat at the desk. Anchoring 7.30 has been the most amazing job and I'll never stop being grateful for the opportunities it's given me."
Leigh told Stellar she had six months long service leave and would take a break to figure out her next move.
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