Hillsong head: ‘Totally false news’
Brian Houston says reports he was knocked back from attending the Whitehouse are untrue.
The Hillsong pastor at the centre of a kerfuffle over the reportedly refused invitation says the entire story is baseless rumour.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had sought an invitation for Mr Houston to join him at events that were part of the official state visit to Washington this week, but was knocked back by the White House.
But Mr Houston said the whole story was wrong.
"I have had no invitation to the White House and I have had no discussion with the prime minister or anyone else about this," he said in a statement on Saturday night.
"Hillsong Church received no inquiry from any party as to my details or availability.
"As far as I'm concerned this is baseless rumour and totally false news."
Mr Morrison would not comment on the story.
"I don't comment on gossip or stories about other stories," he told reporters in Washington.
Asked four times whether that meant it was not true, he repeated that it was gossip, then said: "I think I've answered the question."
Senior Labor MP Chris Bowen said it was up to Mr Morrison to explain if there was an invitation.
"He seems incapable of answering any question he doesn't want to answer," Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
"That's his modus operandi, he just says it's gossip.
"He appears to think that level of transparency is good enough."
Earlier, President Trump and Mr Morrison solidified their "personal friendship" by lauding each other in a remarkable, spirited reunion at the White House.
"He's really something special, we had a special day," Mr Trump told Sky News Australia of Mr Morrison.
"Australia is a great country, beautiful place … I have a lot of friends from Australia. A very strong, great people."
The prime minister is just the second foreign leader to receive the high diplomatic honour of a US state visit during Trump's administration.
Mr Trump was asked by a journalist how he would describe Mr Morrison, with whom he appears to be developing a budding bromance.
In a reference to George W Bush's "man of steel" title once bestowed on former Prime Minister John Howard - the last Australian leader to be honoured with a full state visit to the US - Mr Trump explained that "titanium's much tougher than steel".
"He's a man of titanium, believe me, I have to deal with this guy," he said.
"You might think he's a nice guy, okay, he's a man of real, real strength and a great guy."