Craig vs Slater: Whale Oil blogger gives evidence

7:24 pm on 17 May 2017

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig went toe-to-toe with blogger Cameron Slater in the High Court today.

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Colin Craig Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

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 McGregor.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

Cameron Slater Photo: Supplied

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

The cross-examination began with Mr Slater explaining why his blog was the most popular while left-wing blogs were run by a bunch of "moaning Labour Party supporters".

"You have to provide relevant, funny, pertinent information for readers otherwise they don't come. It's the ultimate market forces in action. They come because they like what they see. That's why they buy merchandise, that's why they back me. That's why everyday in court I've had a legion of supporters watching."

Mr Craig, who is representing himself in court, then asked Mr Slater about politics.

Mr Slater replied: "It's in my DNA, politics. It's the best show in town. There's no rules."

Mr Craig then asked Mr Slater who was fair game.

"Well, if they're standing up on a platform of conservative values - hate the gays, all of that sort of thing - and then in the background their personal life is a complete and utter wreck where they're trying to get their leg over with various different people, then they're a hypocrite and they become a target for a story," Mr Slater said.

Mr Craig asked if there were any rules.

Mr Slater responded: "Well, there's plenty of court cases that say politicians are public property. If you put yourself out in public, then yes, you get a free hit but you still have to stay within the bounds of the law. You have to tell the truth, you have to follow the laws of the land but basically, just because someone doesn't like what's being said about them, doesn't meant it's defamatory."

Mr Craig also questioned Mr Slater over his refusal to be a member of the Press Council and a complaint upheld by another authority.

Mr Craig asked if the point of journalism standards was to ensure journalists carried out their jobs in the right way.

Mr Slater asked: "What is the right way, Mr Craig? Your way is a quaint old-fashioned view of pencil-pushing, shy reporters who are very respectful and call everyone Mister. Times have moved on from the 1800s and it's time you moved on as well."

Mr Slater said he sought comment from Mr Craig and even published his responses in full, but he also confirmed that he did not always go to Mr Craig for comment.

At one point it got personal as Mr Craig questioned Mr Slater about his view of some journalists he refers to as "churnalists" and "repeaters".

Mr Slater said the terms can be interchanged. "Just like 'ratbag' and 'scumbag' can be interchanged."

Mr Craig: "Right, which are words you've used for me, I note."

Mr Slater: "Well, you are both."

Mr Craig: "Right, well, I guess you're entitled to have your view."

Later, Mr Slater summed up his views on politics.

"Politics is about actions and reactions and there's this 'motherhood and apple pie version' that some politicians have that's rather quaint - that we should all hug each other, and eat apple pie and thank Mum for it all and be pleasant. Politics is a dirty, despicable game and it's played by dirty despicable people and they can be of any persuasion - left, right, whatever. But if you don't acknowledge that's what politics is about, then you're going to get nowhere."

Mr Slater told the court he believed he had influenced the outcome of elections.

He said he was paid for media training and consulting but he was not paid for his blog posts.

His cross examination continues tomorrow.

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