Yesterday’s bombshell story about a story that wasn’t a story has sent shockwaves through the reckons machine.
At least four news organisations have over recent months been following up on the malevolent bullshit being peddled about Jacinda Ardern’s boyfriend Clarke Gayford by anonymous cretins on the internet – but no one was publishing them because they were, you know, malevolent bullshit.
Until yesterday, when the NZ Herald, armed with a statement from New Zealand’s top cop that said the rumours were bullshit, ran to the top of the moral hill and shouted: “it’s all bullshit!” “What’s bullshit?” said the people. Can’t tell you that, said the Herald and the rest of us, because it’s bullshit, and defamatory, and malevolent.
That missing part of the story made it tricky to bang out the takes, but the takes must be banged out still, and so they were. But what to say?
I also got fake rumours about me
Bloody rumours, it’s all part of being in public life, said one of New Zealand’s greatest ever moustaches, Mark Sainsbury. I’ve also got fake rumours about me, he said. But he could confirm, years on that he had not in fact “been filmed snorting cocaine off hookers’ bottoms”. What an extraordinary rumour, Sainso! “Yes, it was extraordinary!”
Bloody rumours, it’s all part of being in public life, said another broadcaster, Mike Hosking. In the latest edition of his celebrated feature Mike’s Minute (duration: three minutes), headlined “Hey Clarke Gayford, you should hear the ridiculous rumours about me”, Hosking told the PM’s partner he should “harden up”. When Our Mike was the subject of rumours he “could have done a Gayford” (more on that later), but he didn’t, because it’s all part of being in public life. And just for the record, he did not elope to Fiji with some real estate bloke. “The rumour was I was gay,” Hosking recounted, “and I was running off with a well-known male real estate agent. It was everywhere; well, everywhere in the media bubble… there were no tickets, no trip and no relationship.” Sounds like it was crap, Mike! “It was crap.”
I hate being scooped
ZB Political editor and ESTA-reject Barry Soper has had a couple of goes at the story already. This morning he had deduced that Labour “orchestrated” the whole thing, which was definitely a bad thing.
It would not presumably have been such a bad thing, mind you, if they had let him be part of the orchestra. In his column yesterday, he wrote: “I sent Ardern a text last Thursday outlining what was being said (as if she needed to be told) and suggested she or her partner should address them and offered her a media platform to do it.
“The only reply came from her chief press secretary, insisting that the rumours were false and saying she wouldn’t be commenting on them. He appeared convinced they’d go away. That was a mistake, as was Ardern’s refusal to confront the false rumours head on, as unpalatable as that may be, to identify them for what they are, which would have put paid to them for once and for all. That may yet happen because the way it stands at the moment, the rumour mill will continue to churn.”
Show Barry some fucking respect.
I know who’s to blame
Back to Mike Hosking, and his take this morning, with its weird “could have done a Gayford” line about the Fiji estate agent fake cruise – although before we get to that, pause to admire the opening paragraph: “Well how about Clarke Gayford eh? If it’s not Deborah Hill Cone, it’s the Police Commissioner who’s not investigating him.”
A Mike’s Minute would not be a Mike’s Minute if Mike were not SMH disappointed in somebody, and this morning the person he was disappointed in over the whole palaver around the false, malevolent, insidious rumours about Clarke Gayford was – this is the best bit, wait for this bit – Clarke Fucking Gayford.
Gayford had erred (this is the “doing a Gayford” that Hosking didn’t do over the Fiji rumours), said Hosking, when he “fired off a pre-emptive strike”. What pre-emptive strike was that? Don’t know. He didn’t say anything, did he? “And this is the madness of what the prime minister’s office and her partner have done,” continued Hosking. “They’ve created a circus out of a minor street corner act.”
The moral of the story: do not fire pre-emptive strikes at street-corner buskers or you’ll end up in a circus. Clear?
I am appalled
It is edifying to see Martyn “The Bomber” Bradbury, top blogger of The Daily Blog blog in high moral dudgeon over the appalling circulation of unsubstantiated rumours to “smear, defame and attack political opponents”.
It’s a matter of principle.
Also Martyn Bradbury:
I don’t know what’s going on
The most intriguing take of all? Australia’s national broadsheet has the world breaking news. A secret spouse?!?
Long may the international takes continue. We can but pray the Washington Post has something coming from Ben Mack.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.