[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).

BY STEPHEN COOK

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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  • Col

    So that’s the fact of the story, thanks for explaining how it went step by step.

  • Toryboy

    Who are Russell Brown and David Fisher? cannot say I have ever heard of them.

    • James Growley

      David Fisher is an anally retentive left wing Dot Com worshiper.

      • Toryboy

        Never heard of him. Why would anyone care what such a person thinks?!?!?!

        • Patrick

          If you look very carefully you can see his feet hanging out of Dot Com’s arse when he stands up.

          • Toryboy

            Ha ha – you said it.

  • GregM

    You did the right thing.
    G.

  • kaykaybee

    Stephen you say:

    ” 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”

    There is huge irony and hypocrisy that these two men who high road it and choose to treat you with such disdain choose now to take the low road when it comes to commentary on the behaviour of Len Brown. Len Brown Mayor of Auckland, the steward of New Zealand’s largest and most important economy. We’re supposed to turn a blind eye to this man’s longterm duplicity and compromised character. We’re supposed to accept he is somehow atoning for behaviour he will not frame fully or directly himself. We’re told this revelation should be “private” , but much of the city feels his lack of judgement, integrity and ethics in his so-called private life reflects on his ability to be neutral in the important decision making needed in our fair city.

    • Whafe

      Pickled pork keeps for a long time, the tide is and will change, these biased folk in the MSM will have egg on their faces in the very near future

  • LionKing

    And now Chuang has Nikki Kaye’s special adviser as her spin merchant. He’s a complete sleeze and no doubt hoping to get in on some action from a distraught woman. That and make up more lies to get himself some attention. A good question is who is paying Hamish Price? He wanted money from Palino but was turned down, so he can’t be doing this for free.

  • Whafe

    Well worded Stephen, it is so so clear that the biased media a re going to in the end have more than egg on their faces… Stand strong Stephen, Cam & Whaleoil Team…

  • David

    The only area I think Slater and Cook failed initially and ultimately got stung for it is that they withheld a tonne of information about how this story came to light, the involvement of one of Palino’s campaign hatchet men and the time it took to coerce Chuang into making her statement.

    The recrimination towards their credibility comes down to the fact that they wanted to make Chuang seem like a poor helpless victim who was bullied into an affair by the all powerful mayor. This was not the case and when further details (which the had access to) came out such as her relationship with Wewege, the meetings with Palino, the time it took to get a statement signed from her, that she had recently lost her own local body political campaign and how much of her word we could actually believe in the saga, they opened themselves up bigtime to be painted as crusaders against Brown, rather than journalists interested in the truth.

    For WhaleOil, that’s fine – he’s a blogger and doesn’t hide his political views and sentiments. For Cook, any reputable journalist wants to report the story in full detail, not just the parts that suit an agenda.

    Realistically, I think due to the way this was approached and all information wasn’t made available, there is now too much doubt on Chuang, Palino, Wewege and co that it has made it far easier for Brown to stay within the mayoralty and find public support.

    • Whafe

      Also, think it needs to be said that if in fact more information as to how the story came to light would not have changed a thing. The news is about 7 second sound bites, this would have taken more to explain the whole story and the biased media would have put the same spin on it…
      For me the key here is to flush out the totally biased media….
      Am certain Cam, Stephen and Whaleoil team may have done things differently, but we all know about hindsight….

      • blokeintakapuna

        time… enough rope…. petard…. self-hoisting…

        • David

          Brown will remain Mayor for the rest of the term, public opinion has swayed and the majority polled seem to be supporting him. Palino has done himself major damage in any aspirations of politics. Wewege has pretty much ruined what was looking like a promising political career and Chuang will forever be enshrined as an attention seeking ethically questionable personality who will struggle to gain employment should anyone do a Google search about her.

          All in all, despite all of us agreeing that Brown should go and that he has done his credibility serious damage here, I think he’ll end up being the least damaged politically and professionally.

      • David

        More information would have made it impossible for Chuang to turn this into a smear on WhaleOil and Cook. My gut feel is that they knew she was a dodgy character and the Wewege association made it worse, had they come clean about this in the early stages and shown the full involvement of Palino, Brown wouldn’t be able to slip under the radar so to speak around how and what was known and why the information was released.

    • In Vino Veritas

      You have raised some fair points David.Though I think you are doing Stephen Cook a disservice. The story was about a woman having an affair with the Mayor. Nothing more, nothing less. Anything else is peripheral to the story. Was she sleeping with Len Brown? Was Len Brown using council property and time for the affair? Was there potential conflicts?
      Whether or not Wewege or Palino was involved is entirely moot. Either Brown was having an affair or he was not.

      • blokeintakapuna

        The affair is peripheral to the central issue – and that is political corruption and cronyism deliberately concealed and perpetuated over a 2 year period.
        The holder of the Mayoral office is hopelessly compromised as a result.

        • Patrick

          You are talking about the current bout of political corruption & cronyism when you mention two years, my bet is the dodgy dealings go right back to Brown’s administration in Manukau.
          What was his position when the credit card fiasco broke, the dinners on the council chit?

        • David

          Correct, but the same problem now exists with Palino around how he attempted to use this information for his own gain and the play of Wewege being so creepy. You’ve now got the two main mayoral candidates under questions of ethics and honesty.

      • David

        The story that broke was about the affair, that has been covered to extreme detail and depth and in my view should have costed Brown his position as mayor, it may yet. However, the resulting bit part players and behind the scenes movement on how they would reveal this information, the involvement of Palino, the words that Cook himself mentioned that “Wewege seemed to be a dubious character, only interested in a smear campaign without any real factual account nor evidence” – like I say, Slater has covered himself in glory here, as a blogger who uses both fact based research with opinionated writing, he’s been right on point polarising opinion, making people take notice of what he’s doing and full credit to him. Cook as a journalist however cannot claim the same glory, withholding information, slanting the information he got to be about a victim story when he knew full well what he was dealing with in Chuang and allowing Chuang a back door out by not releasing all details really make him look like a poor journalist, because now hes been smeared with the Chuang brush just like every other player.

        Cook doing a release on how he exposed the story and why he did it this way…. that opens the debate wider than just Brown.

        • In Vino Veritas

          I would suggest that there are not many journalists (along with their editors) anywhere that do not put their own slant on the story, whether by omission or speculation. It just seems to me that you are harshly treating Cook, since the same could be said of most journalists at various papers and TV stations around NZ. I guess the prime example (posted on this site by Whale) is Simon Collins of the Herald, who appears to make the story and its conclusion before the story happens (his credibility should be completely shot, but it’s not). I’m not sure that journalism these days is all about covering oneself in glory, particuarly in tabloids like the Herald.

          • David

            Fair point, however very few journalists open up the process in which they’ve gone about releasing a story therefore the occasion to discuss whether or not a journalist should release all information known to them in order to remove the risk that they will become part of the storyline itself doesn’t come up very often.

            I think we can agree that Cook and Slater are now largely part of the story and seen to be dealing some underhanded tactics around the release of information and how much they actually knew ahead of time, which is a shame, because as Slater rightfully points out and many political commentators have also picked up on, the Cook/Wewege/Slater/Chuang/Palino story has picked up wider public interest than they would have liked to imagine and has allowed Len to come off looking as if he’s been setup, even when his actions with Chuang are the only thing that meant he could be setup.

            NZ Herald is a terrible reference source for unbiased journalism, but in the case of Cook who states that there is a left wing bias, that all information isn’t shared and Slater in the case of exposing hack job journalism to try and influence public opinion, they shouldn’t lower themselves to the actions of other journalists, otherwise they’ll become subject to the same criticism.

    • Daniel

      I think it is normal to withhold details. Look at the Herald and their planned hit job on rest homes to come out next month. Of the stories that could be completed now, why not run them now? Why are the Herald withholding that information to run at a later date? If that is standard that Auckland’s leading newspaper (snigger) sets then why shouldn’t an Auckland based journalist follow suit?

      • David

        That’s fine and proper, but ultimately if we’re holding NZ Herald up as a glowing light of journalism, we’ve got issues. In effect the whole premise of Cam Slater and this website on most days is exposing how bad journalists are in this country for withholding all information and attempting to run smear jobs on people. It’s not even an argument at this point that Cook and Slater both used this style of “journalism” in the case of Brown.

    • Bunswalla

      David it’s become clear over the last several days that you’re running interference for Brown on this. Sadly you have only one thread – Palino is behind it all, and everything else is a variation of that theme.

      You conveniently overlook the salient facts in this case, which I enumerated for you yesterday in some detail. This isn’t about Palino, or Wewege, or Cook, or any Slaters.

      It’s about Len Brown being a lying, duplicitous, deceitful, cheating, arrogant, adulterous slug.

      Who’s paying you to do this, by the way, and what’s your stake in it? It’s very obvious you have a vested interest – do tell.

      • David

        It’s become clear that most of the readers of this blog have a comprehension issue… you’ll note that I’ve constantly stood behind calls for Len Brown to resign, that his decision making is in question, that he was granting political, personal and professional favors to someone in return for sexual favors, that he has effectively ruined his family life – yet you don’t want to focus on that, because on the counter point, when articles like yesterdays one about Palino not knowing about the affair come up, and articles like this one where the journalist talks about why they released the information the way they did, the discussion isn’t just about Brown and the mistakes he made. It widens to Palino, Wewege, Slater and Cook and the mistakes they made.

        So if you actually learnt to read, didn’t just become some over zealous nutball who obviously suffers from word disassociation, you’d see the point I’ve stated all alone – Brown fucked up and should go. Palino also fucked up and should never become Mayor. Wewege has ruined himself, Chuang should never be considered a truthful person considering multiple areas of deceit have come forward from this escapade, Slater has done what he does best, inciting people with a mix of solidly researched fact and scathing opinion on his blog, Cook fucked up by withholding information that he could have released immediately about the involvement of Palino, Wewege and co….

        So, get your head out of your ass, don’t go full retard and realise I’ve repeatedly put Brown under the bus for his actions, I just also happen to believe Palino has fucked himself over too, that’s not a unique belief of mine.

        • Bunswalla

          You seem overly sensitive to legitimate questions, which amongst all your dribble and ad hom attacks you still failed to answer – I wonder why?

          You’re still running interference for Brown with your false interpretation of events – examples: “Clater and Cook failed…” and “the time it took to coerce Chuang into making her statement”. What a cock – Chuang was in no way coerced into doing anything, at least not by Slater and Cook.

          Your final statement “I think due to the way this was approached and all information wasn’t made available, there is now too much doubt on Chuang, Palino, Wewege and co that it has made it far easier for Brown to stay within the mayoralty.”

          So you’re trying to get people to forget all about it and move on, because of some failure of Slater and Cook? I repeat, who’s paying you to do this, and how much?

          • David

            You don’t have legitimate questions, almost every one of your statements start with “OMG you’re a Brown supporter” when I’ve made it abundantly clear time and time again that I think he’s an idiot, has entirely questionable decision making and I feel that he should stand down….

            Because you continue to ignore this point and seemingly continue a circular debate of feeling like I’m a Brown supporter when I wasn’t before the saga started and certainly am not now, I don’t believe you have legitimate questions.

            Now if you look at the articles I’ve commented on, I’m topical to the point the blogger is attempting to make. In this sense, Cook opened up about his process, knowing the involvement of Wewege and Palino in attempting to use this information to gain an unfair advantage over other mayoral candidates and Wewege and even saying himself that he felt apprehensive around Wewege and that the story was being coerced by him. If that had been made clear in the first instance, Cook would have escaped with a better reputation, Chuang wouldn’t have the crawling room she has created herself by flip-flopping on what the story actually is and Palino might have had a chance to completely distance himself from Wewege and not need to lie about his meeting with Chuang to save his own reputation.

            In all of this, Cook through not releasing the entire story as he knew it at that point made himself a character within the storyline, removing his ability to be a journalist and now having to defend his journalistic process….. meanwhile because this story has now got a feeling of underhanded political maneuvering about it, Brown has managed to find himself his own wiggle room to get some public support and make it seem like he was setup, despite this entire story only existing because he couldn’t keep his hands off another woman, granted that woman professional and political favors in return for sexual favors and performed such sexual acts on council time within council chambers.

            Now, I don’t expect you to read anything I’ve written, you’ve made that abundantly clear that it’s not something you do very well…. but if you really want to point fingers around people forgetting that Brown started all of this with his affair and taking advantage of his position of power, you’ve got to start pointing them at Cook, Wewege and Chuang for making this such a circus.

          • In Vino Veritas

            David, Buns, there is a set of facts here. Brown had an affair with Chuang. Fact. Wewege had a relationship with Chuang, fact. Texts were sent by Wewege and received by Chuang. Fact. Palino’s involvement is speculation. Anyone else’s involvement is speculation. Wewege’s involvement is entirely peripheral. Does his involvement change the fact that Brown and Chuang had and affair? No, it doesn’t. How Cook got his information, does that change the fact? No it doesn’t. Debating Cook’s omissions (if they are that) has no bearing on whether Brown had an affair. The media’s speculation about whowhathow when is entirely a beat up. The only rationale is to sell papers and try and flush something out and sell more papers. It’s not about journalism at all.
            David, I have no doubt that Whale had a very good idea of exactly what would happen after the release of the story. And was suitably prepared.

          • David

            No real need to argue with anything you’ve said because it’s all true, although I’d counter that while it’s speculative Palino had involvement, we’ve seen him blatantly lie about his association with Chuang, even having to completely backtrack a statement in an admission that he had met with her “On other business” in relationship to the threatening text messages….

            The real crux of this comes in how much you believe Chuang versus the other players, and my issue is that many people here are happy to believe her version of accounts 100% when it comes to Brown, but not believe her version of accounts when it comes to Palino and Wewege. That’s a bit wrong.

            Cook mentioned in his expose of his process that he felt awkward around Wewege and felt that he was a dubious character. This revelation alone for me gives further creed to my thought that Cook should have exposed that involvement early on in the piece rather than withhold it. Like I’ve stated all along, Brown now has wiggle room created by the differences in Chuang’s story, the involvement of a rival political party and the feeling that he has been stitched up.

    • Callum

      David, this whole matter has been handled terribly. It has completely rooted Palino’s chances of ever being Mayor. Furthermore it looks like old Lenny boy will stay on. And even if he doesn’t we’ll just get someoneother lefty in.
      The whole thing has been a disarster.

      • David

        And there is the reasonable viewpoint… that Brown committed a mistake that should impact his abilities as Mayor (personally as I’ve kept maintaining, he should ultimately stand down as no one will be able to trust his decision making) but also that Palino due to his machinations in behind this has effectively ruined his own credibility in the political world.

        • Bunswalla

          Well done, by agreeing with a troll from the stranded, we now know exactly where you’ve come from, and where you’ll slope off to in due course.

          Brown committed a mistake, yes, that’s fair. He accidentally screwed someone for 2 years on Council property, getting her a job with a Council organisation, appointing her and funding her into different programs, all a big mistake. Nothing to see here. You remind me of Sir Cullen’s Sidekick, only it’s far easier to spot your true colours.

          • Mr_Blobby

            Concur with David. Palino was never the man for the job.He would have been another Dick Hubbard.

            Take pants down out of the picture and good candidates will step up.

          • David

            And again, you continue to show almost autistic levels of comprehension to me stating “Brown should stand down” by somehow making it seem like I’m saying Brown did something minimal and should have no repurcussion.

            See why I don’t consider anything you do reasonable?

            Our dialogue is over, you have nothing other than circular amusement to offer.

  • Azeraph

    Sorry, Were you going to make a video?

  • Callum

    I can’t beleive the hypocracy of the media. We here at WO are never hypocritical are we Cam?
    I just don’t know why everyone else just doesn’t seem to care? Why don’t they see it like we do? I am going to throw my toys in a big way soon if I don’t get my way!!

  • Azeraph

    This was posted yesterday on kiwiblog.

    ” Duncan Garner ‏@Garner_Live

    Stephen Cook has offered Bevan Chuang 100k to star in ex-rated movie – he just told my Producer. @Woodprod … @RadioLIVENZ ”

    This is a bad quick buck as it damages everything, I really can’t see
    this coming from this camp but if it is then there is not much money to
    be made off of her.

  • john

    i have alaways like david fisher he does not seem like a bad fellow , i think cam and stephen may end up hireing them in the future , a good team would be heralds murphy fisher ,
    there is no doubt that step and cam .could be media moguls , i think we watch these young minds and back them

  • fozzie2

    oh Stephen pick your lip up you’ll trip up on it …..

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