'Worth a shot': Basil Zempilas defends Ben Cousins interview after arrest

Basil Zempilas and Ben Cousins, pictured here during the controversial interview on Channel 7.
Basil Zempilas has defended the interview with Ben Cousins. Image: Channel 7

Basil Zempilas has defended his recent interview with Ben Cousins after the former AFL champion’s latest arrest.

Cousins is facing 15 charges including aggravated stalking and breaching a restraining order after being arrested again in Perth on Wednesday.

The former West Coast Eagles captain was taken into custody after allegedly being found with methamphetamine in the suburb of East Victoria Park.

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Police had earlier been searching for a vehicle that was seen driving erratically in nearby inner-southern suburbs.

Cousins, 41, was allegedly found in possession of 2.5 grams of meth.

The latest dramas come just days after Cousins sat down for an interview with Channel 7 that was widely condemned.

Many commentators didn’t feel comfortable with Cousins being interviewed for TV given he clearly still hasn’t got his life back on track, especially given it was a paid interview.

Basil Zempilas defends Ben Cousins interview

However the man who spoke to Cousins has defended the interview amid renewed criticism.

“He hadn’t done an interview in the days and weeks leading up to the last times he was arrested and sent to jail though, had he?” Zempilas said on 6PR Perth radio on Thursday morning.

“So if people are trying to say that he’s ended up where he’s ended up because he did an interview, well one and one does not equal two.”

Zempilas doubled down on the point that Cousins wasn’t paid directly, rather the money went to a trust fund overseen by a lawyer for ‘legitimate expenses’.

But when asked if he thought the interview helped Cousins, Zempilas said: “It hasn’t if today, what was alleged is proven to be the case.

“It was worth a shot, it was worth a shot. Ben’s life wasn’t heading into a rosy direction prior to us doing all of this ... it wasn’t heading into a good spot anyway.

“So if sitting down, talking about some of those things helped be the trigger, it was worth a shot.”

Ben Cousins, pictured here after winning the 2006 AFL premiership with West Coast.
Ben Cousins won the 2006 AFL premiership with West Coast. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

The veteran Channel 7 reporter further opened up on what Cousins was like during filming of the interview.

“It was clear and we didn’t make any secret of this, it was clear that at times during a normal week for Ben, he struggled to keep it together,” Zempilas said.

“There were times when his battle with addiction would get the better of him and would bubble over and I guess that’s happened yesterday.

“The specific times that I was interviewing him, he seemed pretty good. We were with him for about the course of a week. There were two long sessions I did and in those two long sessions I thought he was good, I thought he had it together.

“But you also saw in the program times when he wasn’t with me but the producers were with him filming other bits and pieces and he didn’t appear to be as together, and that was a normal week for Ben, unfortunately. Periods of having it together and periods of not having it together.”

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Backlash over ‘exploitative’ interview

Channel 7 were slammed after the interview went to air, with the founder and CEO of charity ‘Sober in the Country’ described it as ‘appalling’ and ‘exploitative’.

“I speak on behalf of plenty of us on the addictions frontline when I say it was the most grossly negligent, exploitative and abhorrent piece of media yet in 2020,” Shanna Whan wrote at the time.

“What (Cousins) ‘is’ is a patently fragile, sick, and extremely vulnerable high-risk human being who was literally paraded like a monkey with appalling editing and a D-Grade soundtrack last night for nothing more than station-ratings.”

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And Whan doubled down on Wednesday night after Cousins’ latest arrest, tweeting: “Terribly sad to hear about Ben Cousins being back in jail. But not at all surprised.”

“I am guessing that the 7 network won’t be “there for him” now that they’ve got their ratings and their dirt. Stay safe, Ben. And please know there’s a way out of this hell.”

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Former Wallabies star Matt Giteau was also less than impressed by the original interview, tweeting: “Channel 7 couldn’t care less about Ben Cousins in my opinion.. Just wanted the story.”

“I felt he was taken advantage of badly & the whole thing was just sad. Say what you want of him but I really hope he gets the help he desperately needs.”

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with AAP