“What took you so long to man up?” was the first question that came out of Karl Stefanovic’s mouth.
He was interviewing Cory Bernardi on The Today Show on Wednesday morning, following the news the senator had broken free from the Liberal party and would be forming his own party.
It would be a telling start to an interview in which Bernardi consistently found himself on the back foot, fending off a dogged Stefanovic who wasn’t suffering fools.
Giving a fairly long-winded explanation as to why it took him so long “man up”, Bernardi centred on a familiar rhetoric: this is about the country, he said. He was over party politics.
“People were talking about this for months. Again, what took you so long to man up?” Stefanovic pushed again.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the country.”
Stefanovic then asked whether there was a sense of betrayal or remorse about the fact Bernardi was leaving a party that “made” him. The TV host also pointed out that if it wasn’t an ego thing, why wasn’t there a piece of government legislation Bernardi was publicly opposed to?
Bernardi was clumsy in his reply, regurgitating a narrative about his new party being the best possible result for the country. But he couldn't quite pick a piece of legislation he was opposed to.
"You stood up before the last election and said, 'Elect me for six years as a Liberal Senator', now you leave the party without resigning. How is that principled?" Stefanovic probed.
"I haven't changed the values and principles I have upheld throughout my last 30 years in the Liberal party," Bernardi replied.
Perhaps most interestingly, the politician admitted he didn't have a conversation with Malcolm Turnbull before leaving the Liberal Party. It was a claim Stefanovic didn't quite understand, nor believe.
"I find that baffling. I find that baffling that the leader of your party, the leader of the country, who would have heard murmurings of you leaving, didn't pick up the phone and ask you if you were leaving, never did?"
Mamamia OutLoud on Karl Stefanovic's high-profile split. Post continues after audio.
Naturally, as the interview drew to a close, a frustrated but cantankerous Stefanovic accused Bernardi of leaving the party because he did not get along with the Prime Minister.
"You just didn't like Malcolm Turnbull, you two just didn't get along, that's why you left. You couldn't stand him," he said.
Bernardi continued to deny, deny, deny and the interview ended.
Exhausted? Yeah, we can't blame you.