Craig v Slater final media roundup… for now

Photo: Chris McKeen via Stuff

 

Wednesday and Thursday were for closing arguments and somehow the Court managed to restrain one of the parties from taking more time than that.

This is what the media had to say:

Edward Gay, RNZ:

Rachel MacGregor: ‘I lost a lot of faith in Colin’

Colin Craig’s former press secretary has given the High Court details of creepy poetry, the infamous photo in the grass and questions about the moon landing.

Mr Craig is suing Cameron Slater for posts he made on his Whale Oil blog about Mr Craig and his relationship with his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor. Mr Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig for statements made in a leaflet sent out to 1.6 million households around the country.

Ms MacGregor was subpoenaed and gave evidence in the High Court in Auckland today.

She began working for the Conservative Party in the lead-up to the 2011 election and today described her first impressions of its then-leader as a jovial chap who was badly dressed:

“He was a little bit, sort of, odd… He had his pants pulled up really high… He was a bit, sort of, dorky. But … he was just a … middle-aged man trying to have a go at politics.”

Ms MacGregor said her first job was to improve Mr Craig’s image.

“He needed, you know, a completely new wardrobe. He needed a proper haircut. He needed to be able to speak in a way that people could understand him because at the time he would just ramble on and on about his ideas, as opposed to having clear and concise thoughts as to what he was trying to achieve.”

Ms MacGregor was asked about an incident on election night in 2011 when she and Mr Craig kissed in an apartment, attached to the Conservative Party office.

“I also at that point really lost faith in Colin, I thought he was trustworthy but … I lost a lot of faith … in him.”

Ms MacGregor said she thought long and hard about whether she should stay with the party but decided to stay in her job because of financial necessity.

She said she insisted on boundaries, including not working alone with Mr Craig at night and on weekends.

But in the new year, Mr Craig began writing her letters that Ms MacGregor described as “dodgy”. She was asked by Mr Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, about one of them.

“I thought he was probably writing something dodgy again and so, I just tried to ignore it again.”

She was asked about another passage.

“Well, that just disgusted me… He was just so stupid, like: ‘What are you doing?’… It’s just gone from bizarre to ridiculous… I remember thinking: ‘Oh, for goodness sake, this is so awkward.”

She said Mr Craig also gave her unwanted advice, including to get rid of her dog.

Ms MacGregor also spoke of a photo shoot where Mr Craig agreed to be photographed lying in grass in Auckland’s Mt Eden.

She said she was shocked when the photos were published but Mr Craig did not seem to care.

And she recounted another media embarrassment when Mr Craig went ahead with a television interview while she wasn’t present.

“So when I got there, I believe he was talking about chem trails, which is another ridiculous thing… When I say it’s a ridiculous thing, it’s another thing that is a sort of conspiracy theory… I remember talking to Colin after the interview saying: ‘What the heck are doing, you didn’t even have any make-up on… Why are you talking to the journalist when I’m not even there? This is my job.’ And he was like: ‘Oh, it was fine, he was nice, there was no problem with it.’ He didn’t think there was any problem with the interview.”

Ms MacGregor said Mr Craig went on to question the validity of man landing on the moon.

She said she resigned days before the 2014 election over a pay dispute.

Craig’s lawyer used as source for Whale Oil blog

Earlier, the court heard that a lawyer acting for Mr Craig was the source of stories on the Whale Oil blog claiming a second person had accused him of sexual harassment.

Madeleine Flannagan told the court she made it clear to Mr Slater that she was not representing a second woman claiming to have been sexually harassed by Mr Craig.

Mr Slater has written stories claiming there was a second complainant, and has confirmed that a conversation with Ms Flannagan was the basis for those stories.

Ms Flannagan told the court today she called Mr Slater, asking for a copy of a sexual harassment complaint against Mr Craig, and that Mr Slater became fixated and asked her a number of questions about her client.

She said she made it clear she was not representing a second woman, but could not say who her client was.

Ms Flannagan has now told the court her clients were actually Mr and Mrs Craig. She said she only made the phone call to Mr Slater after first discussing the matter with them.

She said her intention was to find out what other details were about to be published because she was working on an adoption application for the Craigs.

I have to say that Ms Flannagan managed to get a very favourable report there.  It does not reflect the court transcript in full and only emphasises her denials and not the answers she gave that put her into a less positive light.   But more about that another day.

The same Edward Gay from RNZ filed this first thing in the morning before the last day came to a close.

Closing addresses in Slater vs Craig trial

Colin Craig and Cameron Slater’s lawyer spent much of their closing addresses arguing about the nature of the relationship between the former Conservative Party leader and his press secretary.

Mr Craig is suing Cameron Slater for posts he made on his Whale Oil blog about Mr Craig and his relationship with his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor. Mr Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig for statements made in a leaflet sent out to 1.6 million households around the country.

In his closing address in the High Court in Auckland, Mr Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, said Mr Craig displayed unacceptable behaviour towards Ms MacGregor.

He said that was captured in at least three personal letters Mr Craig wrote to Ms MacGregor that have been read in court.

There was also a kiss on the night of the 2011 election at the Conservative Party apartment, attached to the party’s headquarters.

Mr Henry said Ms MacGregor had been put in a difficult position, giving evidence about very personal matters and being cross-examined by Mr Craig, who he described as her “nemesis”.

“We have a written plan, written in the wee hours of the 18th of September, 2015, that he was going to deliberately destroy her reputation by alleging in a failed attempted blackmail.”

He said Ms MacGregor also made an allegation that Mr Craig stopped paying her in an effort to force her into having sex.

She resigned shortly before the 2014 election and lodged a sexual harassment complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal that eventually ended in a confidential settlement.

“Put simply, Sir, for her, this is a total disaster. She settled it – confidential – gone. And if it had stayed that way, she would have her life and the plaintiff [Mr Craig] would actually have his life.”

But information was leaked and Mr Slater wrote about their relationship, he said.

Mr Henry said Mr Slater was defending the defamation case based on defences of truth, honest opinion and qualified privilege as a journalist writing about a matter in the public interest.

He said the story was then picked up by mainstream media and Mr Craig chose to hold news conferences, and to then stand down from the Conservative Party with little explanation.

“The evidence is clear, [Mr Slater’s] publications have not caused the damage. It was the plaintiff’s [Mr Craig’s] conduct, his expressly exciting the media by a grand press conference to announce his standing down from the leadership which had the consequences of being able to avoid a [Conservative Party] board meeting where his behaviour with his press secretary was the sole topic on the agenda.”

He said that led to media investigating and publishing information from sources suggesting Mr Craig had acted inappropriately.

Mr Henry said Mr Craig then published a vindictive booklet that went to 1.6 million households around the country, costing him over $250,000.

Mr Slater had originally sought $16 million in damages but that has now been scaled down to $450,000 plus legal costs.

Slater ‘reckless’ in for publishing ‘allegations’ – Craig

Mr Craig, who is defending himself, told the court that the case revolved around the true nature of his relationship with Ms MacGregor, the responsibilities of a blogger and the ability of a public figure to, as he put it, “hit back” with a booklet.

“On the evidence, Mr Slater and the Whale Oil blog were reckless in publishing the serious allegations. They often were publishing allegations based on mere rumour or an inference that Mr Slater had himself drawn. They did not take appropriate, or even basic steps to check the veracity of the allegations, such as seeking any comment from myself or Ms MacGregor.”

Mr Craig said Ms MacGregor thanked him for the letters he sent her.

He said he and Ms MacGregor worked long hours together and formed a close working relationship and a friendship, something he called a workplace romance.

Mr Craig said Ms MacGregor might now regret their relationship but he said that didn’t amount to sexual harassment.

“While I may have acted inappropriately at times – which is absolutely conceded – or as Ms MacGregor put it, ‘being dodgy’, that does not amount to sexual harassment.

“And the only times … that I used sexual language or behaved in a sexual manner towards Ms MacGregor was the election night in 2011 and three of the letters.”

Mr Craig will continue closing his case tomorrow. [RNZ published this on the day closing was taking place.  In case you’re confused].

Thank goodness Edward Gay won’t be deciding this case.  Very keen to repeat all of Mr Craig’s unproven allegations and then not balance them with testimony from others.

This is how readers can’t understand when court decisions are handed down because they’ve had expectations built by media that are not realistic.

Next, an NZN piece at NZ City

Judge begins preparing Craig judgement

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and blogger Cameron Slater have both had their say and now a High Court judge will begin preparing his judgement in the pair’s high-profile defamation battle.

Justice Kit Toogood said it would be “some time” before he could deliver his judgement after closing arguments wrapped up in Auckland on Thursday.

Mr Craig is suing Mr Slater for comments he made on radio and for a series of posts on his Whaleoil blog in 2015.

He told the court the blogger “falsely” claimed he sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

He also said Mr Slater “recklessly” and “falsely” alleged he put financial pressure on Ms MacGregor to sleep with him, paid her a large, six-figure sum of hush money and sexually harassed at least one other woman.

These allegations contributed to the “media firestorm” that engulfed him after he stood down as leader of the Conservative Party in 2015 and ruined any chance he had of reviving his political career, he said.

Mr Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig for statements made in a press conference and a pamphlet sent to 1.6 million Kiwi homes, titled “Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas”.

He says Mr Craig falsely claimed he deliberately published false allegations as a way of attacking the former politician.

Mr Slater also says Mr Craig falsely claimed he was part of a team working together to conduct a political hit job on Mr Craig aimed at ousting him from the Conservative Party.

One of the wonderful things about media reporting about the court is that they can lift certain statements out of context and repeat them.

Radio New Zealand again (no byline)

Judge reserves decision in Craig vs Slater trial

A High Court judge has reserved his decision in the defamation case between the former leader of the Conservative Party and the 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, Rachel MacGregor.

Mr Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig for statements made in a leaflet sent out to 1.6 million households around the country.

Justice Toogood said it would take him some time to deliver his judgement.

Mr Craig finished closing his case today, in which he alleges Mr Slater was part of a conspiracy to remove him as leader.

One of the defences Mr Slater has claimed is qualified privilege as a journalist.

Mr Craig said privilege was to facilitate public discussion.

Justice Toogood said Mr Slater had nothing to gain by Mr Craig standing down, and asked if Mr Slater’s motivation in writing the posts had any relevance to the case.

It has been hard to sit on my hands and not provide some counter-balance.  But in the end, I know it isn’t the public or the journos that will decide this case.  Sure, it would be nice if even one media outlet had presented things from our point of view like they have with Mr Craig’s.

But that would be a miracle.  And those don’t happen very often.

I note some of our own commenters have become concerned that Whaleoil hasn’t done a very good job.  That’s mostly because of the way the media have cherry picked what to report.  There is no point for me to provide the counter-argument.  As I said, it’s the judge that knows it all.  Just don’t be surprised when it all goes our way.

Essentially the media have painted Mr Craig as a strange man, and Cam Slater as the media outlaw that is to be shunned.  Two unlikable characters in a never-ending and absurd encounter that both fascinates and disgusts.

One of the things about court cases is that media will report what a person said.  What they don’t report is if that statement had any truth to it.   So a witness can genuinely take the stand in Court and be reported as: Mr Brown stated that “Mr White was always someone who hung around primary schools”.  This may be totally false.  But it is reported by itself, so the audience gets a totally skewed picture.  That statement may be rebutted later or the witness may even have to withdraw it.  But it doesn’t get reported, so the reader is just left with the slur.

This is what happened a lot in this case.   So don’t worry.  And don’t be surprised when Mr Craig gets nothing at all out of this case.  Just like it happened at the Williams trial.


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