Craig v Slater Day 12 (media roundup)

Photo: Chris McKeen via Stuff

Tuesday saw the Brian Henry complete his questioning of Rachel MacGregor.  Normally the other party gets to cross examine the witness but Colin Craig got permission to delay this until today.  Which means that Barry Soper took the stand to read his Brief and be questioned by Henry and crossed by Craig.

These are the stories that made it to the media from that day

Radio New Zealand

Craig said he’d spend $1m to destroy MacGregor, court told

Colin Craig told his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, he had set aside a million dollars to destroy her, the High Court in Auckland has been told.

Ms MacGregor is giving evidence in court today, where Mr Craig is suing blogger Cameron Slater over posts he made online.

She said she had a pay dispute with Mr Craig – the former leader of the Conservative Party – and they could not agree on an hourly rate.

Instead of being paid, she was given two $10,000 advancements and an $18,000 loan.

She said after she resigned she sent a letter to Mr Craig, saying she was making a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal.

Ms MacGregor said Mr Craig then began charging her 29 percent interest on the loan, which she described as “bully tactics”.

She said during a mediation hearing, Mr Craig told her he had set aside a million dollars to destroy her.

Harrison Christian and Stuff reported

Colin Craig threatened to ‘destroy’ Rachel MacGregor, court told

Rachel MacGregor has told a court that Colin Craig threatened her by saying he’d set aside $1 million to “destroy” her.

Craig’s former press secretary claims the threat was made during a confidential Human Rights Commission mediation after she brought a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Craig – the former Conservative Party leader – and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater are suing each other for defamation at the High Court in Auckland.

Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry asked MacGregor about the mediation and settlement agreement with Craig on Tuesday.

MacGregor said that during the mediation, “Colin was adamantly saying he treated me like a sister”.

“Colin was just saying, ‘yeah well I’d kiss my sister, I’d do what I said in the letter to my sister. Me and my lawyer thought it was absurd.

“The only other thing I remember, was that he said he set aside a million dollars and that he was going to destroy me.”

The sexual harassment complaint had been withdrawn as a result of their settlement agreement, but Henry asked MacGregor whether she had withdrawn the allegations.

“There is no way I have ever withdrawn my allegations,” MacGregor said.

“To this day my allegations stand concrete strong. I withdrew my complaint because I had no longer time or energy to deal with this very weird man. I withdrew the complaint because I couldn’t afford to deal with him any more.”

MacGregor also described how Craig increased the interest on an $18,000 loan he’d given her, which she perceived as a “bullying tactic”.

“He was trying to bully me into not going to court; that’s exactly what he was doing. The interest was going up really really quickly. It was going up monthly.”

Craig had also given her two $10,000 advances for her work, as they couldn’t agree on an hourly rate. In their settlement agreement, the advances and the loan were written-off and MacGregor was also paid $16,000.

Henry asked MacGregor how she felt when Craig breached the confidentiality of their settlement agreement by speaking publicly about her at a press conference in June 2015.

“I was mortified. He was trying to make me out to be crazy. He was trying to fudge the facts.”

And the NZ Herald started the day off with

Rachel MacGregor: ‘Colin Craig set aside a million dollars and was going to destroy me’

Colin Craig’s former press secretary Rachel MacGregor says the former Conservative Party leader had “set aside a million dollars and was going to destroy me”.

MacGregor was this morning giving evidence during a defamation trial before Justice Kit Toogood at the High Court in Auckland between Craig and blogger Cameron Slater.

Yesterday, she spoke of Craig’s “dodgy poems”, shoulder massages and “sleep trick” while she was his staffer.

The former TVNZ journalist was questioned by Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, about what was intended to be a confidential Human Rights Commission mediation hearing between Craig and MacGregor after her allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I remember two main things about the mediation,” she said. “One was that my lawyer was reading out lines of [Craig’s] letters about how he wanted to kiss me, and Colin was adamantly saying that he treated me like a sister the whole time.”

She said Craig was saying, “yeah, well, I’d kiss my sister. I’d do what I say in the letter to my sister”.

“I and my lawyer thought it was absurd,” MacGregor told the court.

She said Craig also made the comment that “he’d set aside a million dollars and was going to destroy me”.

MacGregor, who had received an $18,000 loan from Craig, said the politician threatened to increase the interest of the loan to scare her.

“He was trying to bully me into not going to court, that’s exactly what he was doing.

“The interest was going up really, really quickly. It was going up monthly.”

MacGregor was also given two $10,000 advances by Craig, while the two attempted to come to an agreement on an hourly rate.

Henry also asked MacGregor about Craig’s breach of the confidentiality agreement at a press conference in June 2015.

“I was mortified. He was trying to make me out to be crazy. He was trying to fudge the facts.”

The settlement agreement saw the loan and advances written-off, and MacGregor was also paid $16,000.

She said the “mutual resolution”, which Craig wanted it called, also implied she would withdraw her complaint of sexual misconduct to the Human Rights Commission.

“There is no way I have ever withdrawn my allegations, to this day my allegations stand concrete strong. What I withdrew was my complaint.

“The way that he wanted to do it looked dodgy, but on the other hand I just wanted to get this man out of my life, I just wanted it over.”

She said she had run out of energy to deal with a “very weird man”.

“I wanted to just get on with my life and never have anything to do with him again.”

She later described Craig as “deluded, weird and wrong”.

Craig is suing Slater, the blogger for the Whale Oil Beef Hooked website, for defamation.

In response to the allegations, Craig published a booklet called Dirty Politics, which he distributed to more than a million households and held a press conference about Slater.

Slater is counter-suing Craig for what he said in the pamphlet and press conference.

Yesterday, barrister Madeleine Flannagan gave evidence about how she, with the endorsement of Craig, made contact with Slater several times while acting as the Craigs’ family lawyer.

MacGregor resigns before election: ‘Colin is a very manipulative man’

Newstalk ZB’s political editor Barry Soper was called to the witness stand to give evidence about a phone call he shared with MacGregor before news broke of her resignation as press secretary.

Soper told the court he called MacGregor, whom he had previously worked with in television, on September 18, 2014 – just 48 hours before the general election.

“She was crying,” Soper said, adding MacGregor went on to inform him she’d left her position in the Conservative Party.

“Colin is a very manipulative man,” Soper said MacGregor told him.

The court was then played three recordings from press interviews with Craig in the aftermath of MacGregor’s resignation – where Craig claimed he was unaware why his press secretary had seemingly abruptly resigned.

When questioned by Henry about the newsworthiness of the story, Soper said because it was so close to election day it quickly became “the major story in the last 48 hours of an election campaign”.

He said the reasons behind MacGregor’s resignation and her comment that Craig was a manipulative man was also newsworthy.

When Craig cross-examined Soper, the political editor said there were rumours swirling about media circles of an affair between Craig and his press secretary.

Craig asked the experienced news editor why he didn’t publish the affair rumours.

“We asked you – you denied it,” Soper told the court.

“The fact that you were willing to discuss it publicly was of interest.”

And finally, the incomparable Steve Braunias continues to apply his brand of satire

Colin Craig v Cameron Slater: The nightmare looms

Who, really, is Colin Craig?

What sort of rooster are we dealing with? Those sunken eyes, that wolverine smile – for all his many and varied but mostly crackpot views, and his standing as a singular figure in New Zealand public life, he has been hard to know, difficult to fathom.

“A dork,” offered Rachel MacGregor, giving evidence against him today in courtroom 14 at the High Court of Auckland, where Craig and Cameron Slater are arguing that the one libeled the other.

MacGregor was subpoenaed by Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry. It can be reasonably assumed she has not come voluntarily. It would be fair to say that her appearance in court is something she is suffering as a significant imposition, which is to say a nightmare.

But there she is, and she has not been shy to express the full range of her feelings towards her former employer.

“A dork”: that was her first impression of Craig, she told the court. She was hired as his press secretary in 2011, just as Craig was making his first attempt to get into parliament. It sounded like a memorable job interview. “He seemed a jovial chap,” she expanded.

“Badly dressed. Yeah. I don’t know. Yeah. He was a little bit odd, he had his pants sort of pulled up high. Yeah.”

Beware of men with their pants sort of pulled up high. MacGregor worked for Craig until her abrupt departure two days before election day in 2014. Yesterday on the stand, and again this morning, she described him thus:

“Weird…Ridiculous…Awful….Dodgy…Weird…Untrustworthy…Disgusting…Ridiculous…Horrendous…Dodgy…Deluded…Weird.”

She was also essentially describing a kind of tyranny of sexual harassment. He sent her poems, he tried to kiss her, he touched her breast, he looked down her top. As well, according to MacGregor, he insisted they drive rather than fly to Whanganui, so they could spend more time together; he made her stay late, took off his shoes, and asked her to rub his back; he told her about his “sleep trick” – that is, he’d think of lying on top of her legs and the reverie would lull him into the land of nod.

Also, he put up curtains in her office, and closed them when they were together. And he paid her in advances of $10,000 rather than pay her a regular wage. And he bought her a necklace, and told her to get rid of her dog.

She resisted his advances, was sickened by them, and advised him to listen to a recording of The Lure of Infidelity. Henry wanted to know more about that, and said to her, “Now, Miss MacGregor, you’ve mentioned a song.”

She said, “Where did I mention a song?”

He said, “It was in your evidence that you said you gave him a song. Some music?”

She said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The court transcript was seized. Here, said Henry, pointing at her reference to The Lure of Infidelity.

She said, “That’s not a song. It’s a recorded talk.”

“Oh,” said Henry. His face fell, and he didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands.

What had he imagined when he thought MacGregor was referring to music? Did he hear it as a torch song, something brooding and gothic, by Nick Cave, say, or Leonard Cohen, its lyrics revealing some dark stain on Craig’s character?

He sifted through his notes written with one [of] his beautiful Stabilo point 88 art pens, and his face suddenly brightened.

“Now, Miss MacGregor,” he said, “can we just clarify what it actually was that Mr Craig had said on TV3 about Americans landing on the Moon?”

He had returned to the familiar land of Craig as the dorky guy with crackpot ideas.

When she finished talking to Henry, Craig requested of Justice Kit Toogood that he use the afternoon to work on his cross-examination. Very well, ordered the judge, and set it for 9.30am on Wednesday.

The nightmare looms.

So this morning we expect Rachel MacGregor to face Colin Craig as her questioner.  People have commented how the court could possibly allow this in the face of an alleged abusive relationship.  Whaleoil understands Mr Craig has been handed a strict set of rules issued by the court, and if he does not stick to them, then the court will step in.

If history is anything to go by, rules and Mr Craig make for an unpredictable outcome.


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