[EXCLUSIVE] Cook speaks – How he worked the Len Brown scandal, Ctd

In the final part of his look back at the Len Brown sex scandal, the journalist who helped break the story explains his role in the whole affair (seriously no pun intended).


A week, as they say, is a long time in politics. In the case of Len Brown it’s been more like an eternity.

Just days after celebrating a landslide victory in the Auckland mayoral race, the 57-year-old father-of three was forced to go on national television and admit to a two-year affair with a woman old enough to be his daughter.

What followed was unprecedented in the usually pedestrian world of local body politics. How will anyone ever again be able to keep a straight face in the Ngati Whatua room?

As Len lay low, the bloodletting began with talk of an orchestrated centre-right campaign led by blogger Cameron Slater to smear the mayor and force him into resigning.

Slater hit back in characteristic fashion. He has only one form of defence and that’s offence. 

As he took the attack to his detractors, Bevan Chuang, the woman whose salacious allegations sparked this whole scandal, was starting to feel the pressure.

She’d been warned to prepare herself for what was to come when she first decided to go public with details of the affair.

As we all know, in war truth is the first casualty. Bevan Chuang was told this. Not once, not twice – but at least a dozen times. She was also told that if she was to come out of this scandal with her reputation intact she would need to stay close to those who’d promised to protect her.

Chuang, of course, thought she knew better.

We’d met less than 24 hours earlier at McDonalds in Grey Lynn to go through her story blow by blow, sordid detail by sordid detail.

Over the next two hours the allegations came thick and fast. There was Brown and Chuang in the mayoral office, Brown and Chuang in the mayoral bathroom, Brown and Chuang in the Ngati Whatua room..

This was Deep Throat meets Debbie Does Dallas – and then some.

It was after 11pm that we parted company and I set to work preparing first her affidavit and then the story that would have the country talking for the next week.

But how to tell it?

There was two options. Tell the story the way Chuang had told it or remove all the lurid detail and leave the public to make up their own minds about exactly what went on between the pair.

Fair to say I’ve been roundly criticised for the way I presented this story. Why the need for such graphic detail, many have asked.

It is fair enough question and one I’m happy to answer.

Sometimes in this game you go too far and I’ve been guilty of that in the past.

And while you do your best to pick up the pieces and atone for whatever mistakes you’ve made, there are  those in the industry like Russell Brown and David Fisher who look down on you with absolute contempt. Whatever price you have may paid for your previous indiscretions is never enough in their eyes.

For they are the chosen ones.

Men who never forgive, never forget..

As soon as this story arrived in my lap I knew the likes of Fisher and Brown would be scrutinising my every move.

Debbie Gerbich and the Killer at the Zoo story would surely come up again. That was six years ago. For these two, it’s like yesterday.

So the question was how to present these latest allegations so the story was believed by the doubters and naysayers.

In this case, the credibility of Bevan Chuang’s story lay in the detail. Skirt round the detail and would anyone believe what  I had written?

I wasn’t sure.

That’s partly why I went down the path I did. Best I dish it all up and let you the reader decide.

Let’s also remember in the original story we did not name Bevan Chuang. We agreed to respect her right to privacy, although we knew full well there was no way her name would remain secret.

After the story broke, I tried my best to protect Chuang from the coming storm. I put her up in a motel at my own expense and told her to lay low and not talk to other media.

She chose to ignore me and the rest is, well, history.

She has accused Slater and I of exploiting her. This is nonsense. I personally had nothing to gain from destroying Bevan Chuang. I have no interest in local body politics whatsoever and couldn’t care less who was the mayor.

I didn’t even bother to vote.

Contrary to some opinion, I was not paid to write this story. Even if I was, where is the crime in that? Does anyone question whether David Fisher is paid on the rare occasions  he writes a story in the New Zealand Herald? Of course not.

But different standards apply to Cam and I than the likes of Fisher and his mates.

If that is how it’s to be then fine.

My conscience is clear.

They reckon politics is a dirty game. Try journalism.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.