Craig v Slater Day 7 (media roundup)

Yesterday saw the final witnesses on behalf of Mr Craig, including a man that hung curtains in the Centurion building.  You won’t read about that in the paper because I doubt anyone understood the significance of it.

Stuff wrote

Cameron Slater defends Colin Craig blog posts

Cameron Slater has told a court he was simply doing his job when he published allegations Colin Craig had sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

The responsibilities of bloggers have come under scrutiny as Slater and Craig sue each other for defamation in the Auckland High Court.

Craig alleges Slater published articles on his right-wing blog Whaleoil which were unfounded and effectively destroyed his reputation.

“The difference between my conduct and other journalists is that I never write anything that does not agree with my libertarian and conservative viewpoints.”

He said he received payment for individual posts on his blog.

“With regards to payment for posts, this is a standard journalistic endeavour these days. It is commonly called native advertising or sponsored content.”

The sudden resignation of MacGregor two days out from the 2014 election had turned Craig into an object of intense media interest.

“I am by profession a journalist; I was simply doing my job. I investigated along with all political media a sex scandal and Colin Craig’s attempt to cover it up.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Beverly Adair-Beets, who took over MacGregor’s press secretary duties after she resigned, began crying as she read her brief of evidence.

Craig, who is representing himself, had called Adair-Beets as a witness.

She described her former boss as having “immense integrity”.

The media storm that enveloped Craig following MacGregor’s resignation had been frightening.

“I was very concerned Mr Slater and [former Conservative Party board member] Mr Stringer were going to target me. I was physically shaking and emotional at the time,” she said, before bursting into tears.

A box of tissues was brought to her before Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry began his cross examination.

Adair-Betts soon took exception to Henry’s word choice, when he suggested she had been so “besotted” with Craig she hadn’t considered whether there was truth in MacGregor’s side of the story.

“I’m not sure I would be besotted, what the heck is that? I’m not sure why you would make a statement like that,” she said.

“I’ve felt for Rachel all along. I have from the moment I met her. For goodness’ sake, if you knew where I came from, you would know how inappropriate you’ve just been.”

These were reported out of order.  Ms Adair-Beets had trouble with the tension in the courtroom.  Curiously, she felt personally a target.  She never actually came onto the Whaleoil radar.  She never came up in any pertinent conversations or in any pertinent documents.

NZ Herald’s Steve Braunias chipped in

Colin Craig v Cameron Slater libel case: The downfall of a political party

You needed a torch to see what was going on in the Colin Craig vs Cameron Slater libel counterclaim held in courtroom 14 at the High Court of Auckland on Tuesday. The air was dark with the smoking ruins of a political party.

Craig’s Conservative Party had once come close to power. But there was a sex scandal, which is to say there had been a scandal without anyone actually having sex, and the party’s credibility went up in flames. The embers were poked and raked here and there on Tuesday by party officials who talked about the fire that consumed the Conservatives as a consequence of Craig’s unholy lust for his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

It was pitiful. This is the way politics ends: not with a bang, but a sext.

The court heard how Craig tried putting out the fire with gasoline. He held endless press conferences and continually alluded to “inappropriate behaviour” with MacGregor. It drove the media into a frenzy, said Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, who had an eventful day in court.

He poked a bear.

We know this because Justice Kit Toogood said to him: “You poked the bear.” He meant Henry’s handling of Bev Adair-Beets, who replaced MacGregor as Craig’s press secretary, and who appeared in court as a witness against Slater. She made an immediate impression. She wore a red watchstrap and red nailpolish, and carried a red purse, a red laptop cover, and inside her red handbag was a ball of red wool.

Henry had asked her about MacGregor’s personal view of Craig. Their relationship is central to the libel claim. Craig says Slater libelled him on the Whaleoil site; Slater says Craig libelled him in a booklet, with the rather unoriginal title Dirty Politics. Slater’s blog posts had cast Craig as an obsessive, grubby sex pest; Craig hit back at Slater, and maintained that MacGregor and himself shared a beautiful but forbidden love.

Henry to Adair-Beets: “What do you have to say about Rachel MacGregor’s tweet in which she wrote, ‘Craig is trying to frame me as a mistress’?”

Adair-Beets, quietly: “I’m sorry she said that.”

Henry, loudly: “Well, maybe she said that because it’s her side of the story, but maybe you’re so beholden and besotted with Mr Craig that you think it can’t be right.”

Adair-Beets, alarmed: “How can you use a word like that! What sort of statement is that! How could you – ”

Henry, waving his small paws, attempting to interrupt: “No, you can’t – ”

His Honour, successfully interrupting: “No, Mr Henry. You poked the bear. Let her speak.”
Adair-Beets, very loudly, also shakily: “Besotted! Good grief! If you knew anything about me and my background of abuse, you wouldn’t throw words like that around!’

Her eyes were red behind her red-framed glasses.

She was followed in the witness stand by Laurence Day, who donated $675,000 to the party’s 2014 election campaign. He described himself as a businessman and an investor.

As he gave evidence about Craig’s conduct with MacGregor – the sext, the letters, the cards, the poetry – he surely heard all that money gurgling down the drain. Bad investment. Grand political hopes undone by ordinary lust.

Cam only read out his Brief of Evidence yesterday.  Colin Craig gets to cross examine his testimony starting tomorrow.   At this stage, we would have to expect Cam to remain on that stand for a number of days.

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