Rachel MacGregor is the meat in the Colin Craig defamation sandwich

Katie Parker at The Wireless provides a different perspective of the current Craig v Slater case.

It’s been three years since she left her job as press secretary to then-Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, alleging that in during her time working for him she had suffered ongoing sexual harassment. Craig denied the allegations.

Slater published documents and articles alleging the claims were correct and the pair have been fighting about it ever since.

During those three years, MacGregor’s efforts to put the incident in the past have been repeatedly thwarted, and as Craig’s many litigious issues play out in court and in public she has become a reluctant recurring figure in the media.

The Craig and Slater trial is yet another block in the road.

MacGregor told me that, though she has been subpoenaed as a witness, she has done her best to ignore coverage of the trial. What brought it to her attention, she says was “the Herald’s coverage of it, in which they’ve mainly used satire as a way to report on it”.

Whaleoil was similarly perplexed that the NZ Herald replaced its court reporter with a satirist.   On the other hand, we really weren’t.  The NZ Herald have seriously lost their way.  

Bound by a confidentiality agreement with Craig, MacGregor feels she’s “essentially been gagged”- leaving media outlets free, it seems, to editorialise her role in a case of creative licence not generally associated with the news media.

The Herald’s print version, for instance, seemed to spatially prioritise their Braunias authored satirical pieces, the factual reporting included as an insert, an aside. This she says was misleading: “It actually to a lay eye looked [as though] all of it was a news story.”

Worse still she says, the facts included in this insert were incorrect. Sourced from the New Zealand News Wire service, the piece described a letter, marked private and confidential, as having come from her.

“Of course the letter they were talking about came from Mr Craig and that is a huge error,” she says. “It’s not just a misspelled name or a little thing that needed correction.”

I can assure you that the NZ Herald articles on this case are peppered with inaccuracies.  From our perspective it is hard to believe at least some of these don’t have malicious intent.

She contacted the Herald and asked for correction and apology, in an equally prominent place as the original story. They obliged the former part of the request, but not the latter.

“It was on page seven and it was in the in-brief section down the bottom. Now most corrections are just very tiny, but then most corrections are as I say a misspelled name or something minor as opposed to “ooh we actually got this completely the wrong way around”.

The liberties taken with MacGregor’s story, along with these mistakes – whether intentional or not – contribute to an ongoing narrative that seems to be working as hard as it can to erase the fact that at the heart of the matter are very serious allegations of sexual assault. After all, what’s entertaining about that?

Oh, that’s easy.  Send in a grey haired old white newspaper hack to report on a case where a young woman’s life was not just destroyed, it keeps coming back up like some sick version of Groundhog Day.

Braunias in particular seems to have chosen to run with the narrative of a consensual relationship describing Craig’s “unholy lust” for MacGregor with whom he had been “formerly in a relationship that started with a kiss and never actually went any further”.

Huh? As Cameron Slater said of the relationship in court on Friday (and you know things are bad when you’re quoting Cameron Slater) “there was no evidence at all, and there still is no evidence that it was reciprocated in any way”. Since when were sexual harassment victims fair game for satire?

While MacGregor is unable to comment on her relationship with Craig, the tone of the satire has disturbed her.

“It’s absolutely misrepresenting me, and it’s making a joke out of an issue that’s actually very serious.”

To expect any kind of empathy from the NZ Herald or Steve Braunias specifically would be naive.

“Unfortunately, this story does involve me to quite a large degree,” she tells me. “Even though the court case itself is not about me, it unfortunately is about me, if that makes sense.”

Though her own case with Craig has been through the Human Rights Tribunal, neither party are permitted to discuss the particulars of the case due to a confidentiality agreement (a clause Craig was found to have breached by speaking about her in media interviews).

MacGregor has kept her end of the deal – something which has left her open to speculation and judgment.

One way or another, women who report their abusers rarely go unpunished. MacGregor’s ordeal is a startling reminder that, when given the chance, the old guard media are ready and willing to partake in that punishment.


the wireless

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