Craig v Slater – Day 6 (media roundup)

Yesterday Mr Craig was on the stand for most of the morning while answering questions from the court.  After that, his wife Helen took the stand to read her brief of evidence and to be cross examined.  Closing the day was Centurion employee Tracey Zhu who testified about financial matters that Mr Craig wishes to highlight as part of his defence.

The media were back because they need easier headlines.

First a NZN piece

Slater’s blogs terrible lies: Helen Craig

Colin Craig’s wife has called a blogger’s claims of sexual harassment by her husband “appalling” and a “triumph of lies over truth”.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, in a series of posts in 2015, claimed former Conservative Party leader Mr Craig sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

Ms MacGregor resigned suddenly two days before the 2014 election, having worked closely with Mr Craig from about the time he founded the Conservative Party three years earlier.

Mr Craig is suing Mr Slater for defamation over his blog posts, while Mr Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig over allegations the former politician made in a 12-page pamphlet he sent to 1.6 million homes trying to defend himself.

On Monday Mr Craig’s wife, Helen, told the High Court at Auckland Mr Slater’s posts were part of a “nightmare” campaign aimed at her husband that were not based on facts.

As an example, she cited a post in which she said Mr Slater accused her of standing by her husband, despite the sexual harassment allegations, because he was rich.

Mrs Craig glared at Mr Slater in the courtroom gallery, saying she could not believe he would publicly broadcast damaging comments about her and her husband when he did not know them personally and had never approached them for comment.

She said the situation was a “nightmare” because she never knew what allegation Mr Slater would make next.

The ensuing “media firestorm” not only ruined her husband’s political career, but cost their business clients and affected their relationship with friends, she said.

Mr Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, later quizzed Mrs Craig, asking why she thought Whale Oil, a small blog site, had cause of all these problems when New Zealand’s major media players had also written about the allegations.

He also sought to find out what information and when Mrs Craig knew about her husband’s relationship with Ms MacGregor.

This led to him at one point asking Mrs Craig if she had not been intrigued to read a specific letter because it was marked private and confidential and came from his “blonde” and “younger” press secretary.

“I beg your pardon,” Mrs Craig replied.

The hearing continues.

Stuff:

Helen Craig: ‘I wanted to deck my husband’

Colin Craig’s wife has told a court she wanted to “deck” her husband when she read a letter he wrote to his former press secretary, in which he apologised for looking down her top.

In the letter dated November 2011, Craig referred to a low-cut top of Rachel MacGregor’s, saying, “My eyes went where they shouldn’t have gone,” and asking for her forgiveness.

Helen Craig later read the letter in evidence, and has described her emotional reaction.

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

In a series of articles on his blog, Slater alleged Craig had sexually harassed MacGregor, which Craig denies.

On Monday, during week two of the trial, Craig called his wife as a witness.

In her brief of evidence, Helen Craig described the impact of the allegations published on Whaleoil.

“It was like a nightmare scenario, where we were both caught up in a vicious vortex of allegations,” she said.

“It felt like this was a triumph of lies over truth. I struggled then and still do now to accept how something so unjust could happen.”

Helen Craig said close friends and a family member had believed the “falsehoods,” and a client had even terminated their contract with one of the Craigs’ businesses due to his reputation.

Helen Craig described one article published on Whaleoil she’d found particularly offensive, which had been titled, It’s all about the money dum dum.

“[Slater] said essentially the only reason I was standing by Colin was for money. He also said I wouldn’t be so supportive ‘once the sext bombs start dropping’.”

Under cross examination by Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry, she was asked to recall her reaction to Craig’s November 2011 letter.

“I wanted to deck my husband,” she replied.

She said she wished Colin Craig hadn’t written a series of letters to MacGregor, some of which included love poems.

“I didn’t [deck him] by the way. I restrained myself,” she later clarified.

The infamous Steve Braunias popped in for a little while

Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with?

The sad, ragged ballad of Colin Craig and Rachel MacGregor – the former political party leader and his former press secretary, formerly in a relationship that started with a kiss and never actually went any further – played to an empty courtroom 14 at the High Court of Auckland today.

The only people there were people who had a professional reason to be there. No spectators, no idly curious, despite the fact that the courtroom was filled with song.

If you listened really carefully, you could hear music playing in the background of the evidence given by Craig. It was faint. It sounded like a tinny radio transistor playing in another room. But there it was, sounding like a terrible old country music dirge – the soundtrack of the doomed and dismal “emotional affair” between Craig and MacGregor.

Their hapless infatuation cost Craig his position as leader of the Conservative Party, and has led to a dizzying number of stoushes in court. The latest is the dispute between Craig and his nemesis, Cameron Slater of Whale Oil infamy; each are claiming the other published material which was libellous and most damaging to their character.

Everything comes back to Craig and MacGregor, to Colin and Rachel, up a tree, k-i-s-s, i-n-g – just once, on election night in November 2011.

“The election night incident,” said Craig.

“The election night event,” said Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry.

Craig took the stand on Monday and talked about the kiss.

“We had fallen short of our Christian values,” he lamented. But they agreed not to let it go any further than that, he told Justice Kit Toogood.

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig would have dated press secretary Rachel MacGregor if single

Toogood nodded, and said, “And by that, do you mean actually having a physical sexual relationship?”

His Honour had introduced the dread word into the courtroom: sex. Craig gulped, and said, “Correct.”

A bright light shone on Toogood’s bare skull. It was like a spotlight; and as he asked Craig numerous questions about his “affair of the heart” with MacGregor, it became evident something else was going on. If you listened really carefully, Toogood was actually singing the rock classic by Foreigner: “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me!”

Craig talked about the back massages MacGregor gave him, the time he looked down her top, an anguished conversation on a flight from Napier to Auckland.

“If we were both free to do so,” he said to Toogood, who was all ears, “I think we would have had a sexual relationship.”

The opening line of this story is a question posed by the great English band The Buzzcocks. It was the title of their 1978 smash hit.

In Craig’s version of events, his desire for her had faded, but MacGregor was reluctant to simply remain friends.

So much music, so little joy. Toogood studied Craig, the Foreigner song no doubt blaring inside his head.

The country dirge also played on in court, slow and endless, as Craig continued to describe the unrequited office romance that went horribly, horribly wrong.

The NZ Herald rounded the day off with this AAP piece

Craig would have dated MacGregor if single

When offering a $20,000 personal loan to his then press secretary – a woman he had strong feelings for – former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig did not consider whether it created an inappropriate power balance, he admitted to a court.

Rachel MacGregor worked closely with Craig from about the time he founded the Conservative Party in 2011 until she resigned suddenly two days before the 2014 election.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater subsequently, in posts in 2015, claimed Craig sexually harassed her.

Craig is suing Slater for defamation over his blog posts, while Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig over allegations the former politician made in a 12-page pamphlet he sent to 1.6 million homes trying to defend himself.

On Monday in the High Court at Auckland, Justice Kit Toogood asked Craig whether he thought MacGregor was likely to feel trapped because he had not only loaned her money but also previously kissed her.

Craig said that with hindsight he accepted this had tilted the balance of power in his relationship with Ms MacGregor in his favour.

But he did not think about this at the time because it was MacGregor who had asked for help after struggling to pay off her credit card debts, he said.

He said he and his wife Helen considered MacGregor a friend and wished to support her and had made similar loans to other friends and family.

He also encouraged MacGregor to seek independent financial advice and repeatedly told her she was free at anytime to seek an alternative loan or repayment option.

In a series of questions, Justice Toogood also quizzed Craig about whether he and MacGregor had wanted to have a physical relationship.

He replied that because he was married, they could not. However, if they had been both free to do so, he thought they would have entered a relationship together.

It is interesting to note that makes it into the news.  None of these are the substantive points the case will be decided on.

Somewhat educational and another reminder that “you weren’t in the court and heard all the evidence” is genuinely true.   I suspect that a number of people following this through the media alone will be quite surprised with the final verdict.

 

 


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