Craig v Slater Day 8 (media roundup)

Yesterday was mostly comprised of Colin Craig questioning Cameron Slater on the witness stand.  As you might expect, media have suddenly woken up and there is plenty of coverage.

Newstalk ZB published this NZN piece

Colin Craig and Cameron Slater clash in courtroom

Blogger Cameron Slater has told former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig the hypocrisy of politicians’ personal lives is fair game for the media as the pair face off in court.

Whale Oil founder Slater, in a series of posts in 2015, alleged 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 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.

Slater said he was just doing his job as a journalist when he posted the allegations.

Under cross-examination by Mr Craig – who is representing himself – at the High Court at Auckland on Wednesday, Slater said the personal affairs of politicians needed to be exposed if they reflected hypocrisy.

“If you put yourself in public, then yes, you get a free hit. But (journalists) have to stay within bounds of law. You have to tell the truth,” he said.

“But just because someone doesn’t like what’s being said about them, doesn’t mean it’s defamatory.”

Plenty of legal cases around the world suggested there was a “free-for-all on politicians”, he said.

Slater said he was happy to admit that he wore his political positions like “badges”, telling the court he thought it was more honest than journalists not disclosing their biases.

Responding to a long series of questions, he also provided a string of opinions and criticism about numerous notable New Zealand journalists and the mainstream media, and talked at length about the high readership of his blog, saying “the stats show I’m a winner”.

“The numbers reflect the content. It’s content that’s relevant to readers. It’s daylight between me and second,” he said.

Stuff reported at lunchtime as well

Insults fly at Colin Craig, Cameron Slater defamation hearing

Blogger Cameron Slater has flung insults at Colin Craig during a heated cross examination at the High Court in Auckland.

The former leader of the Conservative Party and the Whaleoil blogger are suing each other for defamation.

On Wednesday, Slater, under cross-examination by Craig who is representing himself, accused Craig of having a “quaint view” of the New Zealand media.

“Your way is a quaint old-fashioned view of pencil-pushing reporters who are very shy and call everyone ‘mister’,” Slater said.

“Times have moved on from the 1800s and it’s time you moved on as well.”

Craig claims articles published on Whaleoil alleging he sexually harassed his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, were unfounded and effectively destroyed his reputation. But Slater says he was simply a journalist doing his job.

Slater told the court he had been involved in politics from a young age. When he started his blog, in 2005, he set a goal to become the most successful blogger in the country.

“It’s in my DNA, politics. It’s the best game in town. There are no rules.”

He said he was open about his “fiscal conservative and social liberal” views, while mainstream journalists pretended not to have political bias.

He didn’t necessarily need to adhere to journalistic standards, or differentiate between fact and opinion, he said.

“You’re trying to hold me to a standard that other people are holding themselves to, but I don’t subscribe to those standards.

“I do operate to standards but they’re just not written down.”

Asked whether he had an obligation to test the accuracy of facts, Slater responded: “How can you test the accuracy of a known liar?”

Craig also asked Slater whether he’d used the words “ratbag and scumbag” to describe him.

“Well, you are both,” Slater replied.

Filed by NZN at NZ City is a slightly different version

Blogger Cameron Slater has told a court his posts are so popular it makes him a regular target for attack from people, such as Colin Craig

Blogger Cameron Slater has told a court his posts are so popular it makes him a target for attack from people, such as former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

Whaleoil founder Slater, in a series of posts in 2015, alleged 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 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.

Slater says he was just doing his job as a journalist when he posted the allegations.

Under cross-examination by Mr Craig – who is representing himself – at the High Court at Auckland on Wednesday, Slater said people such as Nicky Hager in his book Dirty Politics had regularly attacked him because he was influential.

“That is why I’m targeted and continue to be targeted by people such as yourself,” he told Mr Craig.

However, Mr Craig, in a series of questions, quizzed whether Mr Slater should be bound by the same code of ethics and standards other media organisations subscribe to, such as those set down by the Press Council.

But Slater said he chose not to be bound by a set of published standards because it could then be held up by political opponents as a way to try silence him when they do not like an article.

He instead ensured his stories were factual and that he included a transparent process for readers to complain on his blogsite, Whaleoil.

Pressing Slater on individual points within the Press Council code, Mr Craig asked him if he should contact a person for comment when they are the subject of a blog post.

He said it depended, but he had no obligation to contact them if they were a known liar and will likely lie in his story or if they are likely to sue him, as he said Mr Craig would.

Later in the afternoon, Radio New Zealand had quite a frugal stab at it

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is cross-examining blogger Cameron Slater.

Mr Craig is suing Mr Slater for posts he made on his Whale Oil blog about Mr Craig and his relationship with his press secretary.

Mr Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig for a booklet that was sent to 1.6 million households.

In the High Court in Auckland this morning, Mr Craig asked Mr Slater about his approach to blogging.

He said he was different from other bloggers because he was honest about his political beliefs, which were libertarian and Conservative.

Mr Slater said he was proud of his beliefs and he openly declared them.

Towards the end of the day Steve Braunias shows feelings about WO at the NZ Herald are still running cold

Craig v Slater: Great stand-up, but no one laughed

One of the greatest comedy stand-up routines ever heard in New Zealand was performed at the Colin Craig vs Cameron Slater defamation trial in courtroom 14 at the High Court of Auckland today.

It went on, and on, and on, ever more wild and fanciful, and the humour was so shocking that no one actually laughed.

Was it even comedy? It was definitely stand-up, because that’s how Cameron Slater appeared in the witness stand, on his feet, facing Craig in cross-examination.

Craig is defending himself in the counter-claim libel case. Each claim the other has published defamatory comments. Slater’s case opened yesterday, when he read out a fairly dry opening statement. He saved his best material for cross-exam.

Slater wished to impress upon the court that he was, in fact, the greatest journalist who ever lived. His lengthy rambling answers affirmed that he was a titan of the fourth estate, a fearless investigative journalist who was deeply and widely respected, and had the ear of every politician, every editor, every thinking New Zealander.

It was humbling to sit with the other inky gentlemen of the press and listen to Slater’s ravings. We were minnows. He was the Whale, and he rocked on his feet as he told his long, mad tale.

“I have a legion of followers…My blog is better than every other blog…In a few short months my figures will skyrocket. They will double…I busted Len Brown…I break a lot of stories…I’m respected for my political views.

“I know what most politicians are up to. There’s plenty of them playing around…They can’t keep secrets…I get things right…I talk to parties across the political spectrum…I told someone from John Key’s office to get stuffed once.”

He mentioned he was “a multi award-winning journalist”. Craig asked him about this multitude of honours. Slater said something called Net Guide had twice named Whaleoil as best blog, and he also won a Canon media award for his Len Brown scoop.

“Three,” said Craig. As a qualified accountant, he is an expert in addition.

“Well,” Slater retorted, “my stats show I’m a winner!”

One of his best quips was, “I’m the same as any other media organisation. But in many respects, I’m better.”

Craig asked how many contributors regularly wrote for Whaleoil. Well, said Slater, there was himself, his wife, and someone called Pete.

“Three,” said Craig, once again deadly with numbers.

Justice Kit Toogood is presiding over the judge-alone trial. He leaned back, way back, as Slater delivered his monologues. One can only speculate, because a court report is no place for fearless investigation, but it seemed that His Honour regarded Slater with an expression that ran the not especially long gamut from horror to disbelief, then back again; by the time lunch was called, he looked tired, beat.

“There is no short answer,” as Slater had said. He talked the door off a barn. He talked like a talk-back caller who you couldn’t cut off.

“Left-wing ratbags…I gave [former Green MP] Kevin Hague a good hiding…I make people laugh.”

Quite. At one point, he bragged that he was an in-demand political commentator. The proof was his regular appearances talking about politics on Channel 83.

“I’ve been on every show bar one,” he announced.

Channel 83! What the blazes is that? Can someone send out a search party? Craig should have asked – he’s good at numbers – but Slater had moved on.

Supporters, possibly including his wife and someone called Pete, smiled from the public gallery. He had their ear.

I also noted that the NZ Herald re-ran yesterday’s story of Mrs Helen Craig being visibly upset about Cam Slater as a fresh article (“Harassment claims part of ‘nightmare’ campaign, says Colin Craig’s wife”) but they had just changed the time on it so it would run again for a second day.  To think these professionals are above such juvenile things would be as pointless as the effect they think doing so has on the case.

Today Colin and Cam will continue their battle of ego, wit and if we’re lucky, evidence.   It is not expected Mr Craig will be done for a number of days yet.

 

 

 

 


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