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'I felt like a failure': Jessica Rowe on the one career moment that almost broke her.

Jessica Rowe is no stranger to the Australian media space.

With an extensive career in television dating back to the 90s, the 51-year-old has worked in presenting across each of Australia's commercial channels: Nine, Seven and Ten.

But it was her brief stint at Channel Nine's The Today Show that still strikes a nerve for the presenter.

Following the birth of her eldest daughter Allegra in 2007, it was reported that Nine station boss, Eddie McGuire threatened to "bone", or fire Rowe while she was on maternity leave. 

"What are we going to do about Jessica? When should we bone her? I reckon it should be next week," McGuire allegedly said in a meeting with executives, as stated in a sworn affidavit issued at the time from Nine Network’s former Head of News, Mark Llewellyn.

"She's a laughing stock, and if we keep her on air we'll be the laughing stock."

Watch: Jessica Rowe on Eddie McGuire. Post continues below.


Video via Ten.

“I recall after having a meeting with various lawyers who told me they were ready to muscle up for a fight, I had a six-week-old baby at home. I remember coming home, I was all dressed up in my armour of makeup and business suit, and I remember lying on my front lawn while my mum patted my head because I felt like my world had fallen apart,” Rowe said of that time in an interview for Mumbrella360.

“I was being encouraged to ‘step aside’ because of the ‘challenges of motherhood’, and I very angrily rallied against, but I knew that I did not have the emotional energy or capacity to fight at that time. There was a big part of me that felt like I was letting my baby down.”

Adding to Rowe's heartache, was the new mum's struggle with post-natal depression

And as the presenter unceremoniously left The Today Show, both her personal and professional life taking a heavy hit, her co-host, Karl Stefanovic emerged relatively unscathed.

Image: Nine. 

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This week, in an interview with Stellar magazine, she was asked the question: did she resent Stefanovic for that?

“Of course I did,” Rowe said. 

“I mean, it’s not a healthy feeling. But it’s a human feeling."

Listen to Karl's response on this brilliant episode of The Spill. Post continues after podcast.

"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," she recalled.

Which is why the mental health advocate decided to invite her former co-host to speak on the first episode of her podcast, The Jess Rowe Big Talk Show.

"I thought this [reunion on the podcast] would be a really challenging conversation for both of us – but one we needed to have," she said.

"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.

"Karl, to his eternal credit, was so open in that conversation. He was vulnerable, and he apologised to me, which I didn’t expect. But he took responsibility for his part in it, which meant so much to me."

Listen to Jessica Rowe on Mamamia's candid interview podcast, No Filter. Post continues below.


In their talk, Stefanovic tearfully apologised 'not protecting' Rowe as she copped the brunt of the backlash.

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"You didn’t have a guy next to you who could have protected you and helped you in the way that I should have, and for that I'm always sorry," he said on the podcast.

"I’m here to apologise to you, and I wish I’d been a better man. A stronger man. Not just for myself, but for you.

"Years later, when I was going through my third and fourth wave of [criticism], I was thinking, How did Jess Rowe survive?"

Jessica Rowe in 2006. Image: Getty. 

Reflecting on the time, Rowe said: 

"I didn’t have the emotional, mental or financial strength to take on Nine. 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.

"I think people, especially the people in the public eye, often seem like they’ve got it all together, like they know what they’re doing. But no-one does. We are all human; none of us are perfect. Some people are just better at pretending.

"Now, more than ever, I’m interested in having real, vulnerable, honest conversations with people about what is going on in their lives, and hopefully make others feel less alone in their struggles."

Feature Image: Getty.