Prime Minister Scott Morrison has deflected questions about whether he put forward Hillsong church leader Brian Houston to join him at a state visit in Washington DC, telling journalists it was "gossip" that did not warrant a comment.
Mr Morrison declined to respond to a report in The Wall Street Journal that said the Trump administration rejected the idea of inviting Mr Houston, who was criticised by the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
Asked several questions about the report in Washington on Saturday local time (Sunday AEST) Mr Morrison said repeatedly it was “gossip” and he would not comment further.
He did not deny the report.
"I don't comment on gossip or stories about other stories," he said.
Asked if that meant the US newspaper report was not true, Mr Morrison said: "It means it's gossip."
Asked two further times if the report was not true, Mr Morrison said again it was "gossip" and that he had answered the question.
The Prime Minister's office previously said that invitations to the state dinner were issued at the discretion of the White House.
In a statement released to the media on Saturday, Mr Houston said Hillsong Church had not received any enquiry about his details or available for the US events.
"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.
"As far as I’m concerned this is baseless rumour and totally false news."
Those who attended the White House state dinner on Friday night in the US capital included golfer Greg Norman, Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch and cardboard mogul Anthony Pratt.
Mr Houston, the founder of the Hillsong Church, was criticised by the royal commission into child sex abuse in 2015 for failing to tell police his father was a self-confessed child abuser.
The commissioners found that Mr Houston and others failed a victim, known as AHA, who was molested by Frank Houston from the age of seven.
The commissioners found that when the allegations surfaced almost 30 years later in 1999, Mr Houston confronted his father, who admitted abusing AHA, but did not notify authorities.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.