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The World's Most Senior Transgender Military Officer Destroys Columnist's Abuse And Jokes

Exclusive: AFR editor received official complaints from a big commercial partner and the world's most senior transgender military officer.

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Group Cpt. Catherine McGregor was driven off Twitter last week when she brought up an old Mark Latham column and was abused by the @RealMarkLatham account.

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McGregor, who is the world's most senior transgender military officer and counts prime minister Tony Abbott as a good friend, tweeted that The Australian Financial Review's editor Michael Stutchbury should reconsider continue publishing Mark Latham (who was once Australia's alternate prime minister).

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As previously reported by BuzzFeed News, the @RealMarkLatham Twitter account appears to be the former Labor leader, and has been viciously trolling some of Australia's most prominent women, including Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.

Dan Himbrechts / AAP

McGregor's tweet was sparked by someone who had told her about a column published in the AFR in June titled, "It's Yes Minister in the Islamic State era".

In the column, Latham made two transphobic jokes about the Order of Australia recipient before questioning her military capabilities.

Other Australian newspapers have been reprimanded for printing similar remarks about transgender people.

The column's imputations, and the attack on Twitter, led McGregor to lodge a formal complaint with the AFR's editor and Fairfax Media's CEO Greg Hywood.

BuzzFeed News has obtained a copy of the complaint which was sent on Tuesday last week. It's an eye-opening email which savages Stutchbury for publishing the column.

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She told Stutchbury how deeply offensive the column was personally and professionally.

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And brought up the Twitter account @RealMarkLatham's abuse.

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Later that evening, the newspaper editor replied to McGregor and said "it is not easy to keep on top of every word of every story that gets into print or online these days, let alone monitor everyone's Twitter accounts."

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BuzzFeed News can also reveal that one of the newspaper's biggest commercial partners is reconsidering its future with the newspaper.

Westpac, which hosts the Women of Influence awards in partnership with the AFR, has made several complaints to editors about Latham's columns, which regularly target famous Australian women, including Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.

It appears Latham's columns threaten the future of the awards...

A leaked email from the Westpac CEO's office reveals just how angry the bank is, noting that "it would be a shame to undo all the well deserved recognition for those high achievers because of these comments."

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BuzzFeed News' requests for comment about the abuse of McGregor and the shady @RealMarkLatham Twitter account continue to fall on deaf ears.

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Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood and The Australian Financial Review's editor Michael Stutchbury.

On Sunday, we called Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood with a list of questions. He replied, "I'm not even getting into it... I have no comment."

We called Michael Stutchbury who said "hello", confirmed it was him and then disconnected the line when informed about the purpose of the call. We've called repeatedly since that time but there has been no answer.

BuzzFeed News has sent a list of questions to Stutchbury about the column which abused McGregor, the @RealMarkLatham Twitter account, and whether the AFR will continue to stand by the columnist despite pressure from commercial partners.

We have also sent questions to an email address that senior AFR people confirm is Mark Latham's.

The online activity and abuse that is linked to Latham comes one year after Fairfax Media had a similar situation with controversial columnist Mike Carlton.

In that case, Fairfax Media intervened, moving to suspend Carlton who had been abusing people on Twitter. The columnist resigned over the intervention.

"It's a shame that it has come to this end because of the way he has treated readers," said Fairfax Media's group director, Sean Aylmer at the time.

"But readers are all important, and without them we don't have a business."

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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