GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 122
27 January 2012
“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”
– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.
For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask:
“Hendo, are you OK?”
– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.
“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago
– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011
“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails
are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s
Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.
Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”
– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.
“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”
– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.
“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”
– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)
“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us
for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”
– Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012
● Nancy’s Back : No Fleas, But Cliché Ridden
● Stop Press : An Aussie Day Moment With Waleed (Boring) Aly &
Liberty (Blame Abbott) Sanger
● Scoop : Mark Latham’s Lore on Privacy for Dunderheads
● Can You Bear It: Yes/No Manne Says No/Yes on Rudd
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Miss Kelly Misses (PM) Lead
● Michelle Grattan Scores Nancy Sauce Award for Sourceless Report
● Phillip Adams Gets Gong for Undocumented Rumour On John Gorton and Liza Minnelli
● Correspondence : Michael Pearce SC and Leslie Cannold On Julian Assange etc
NANCY’S BACK ON THE PROWL IN 2012
As the saying goes, the hoi polloi enjoy holidays. But media types experience well-earned-breaks. On Radio National Breakfast last Monday, presenter Fran Kelly reflected on her recent break. Nancy, too, has been on a well-earned break – and now returns refreshed, invigorated, excited and – needless to say – cliché ridden.
In 2012, Media Watch Dog will feature some new and revamped segments. Nancy has signed up Robert Manne and Mark Latham as regular MWD contributors. Heard about Professor Manne’s Left, Right, Left blog on The Monthly’s website? Well, Nancy has once again hacked into RM’s La Trobe University computer and will provide copy on occasions for MWD under the Right, Left, Right heading. Nancy has also hacked into Mark Latham’s computer and arranged for a “Latham’s Lore” column – consisting of rejected copy from his column in The Spectator Australia – to appear in MWD. [How does the former leader of the workers get by on a mere $75,000 in taxpayer funded superannuation each year? No wonder he needs moollah from Tomie Switzer at the “Aussie Speccie” – Ed]. Nancy is currently negotiating with the likes of Marieke Hardy and the False Prophet (Bob) Ellis to contribute occasionally to MWD. Stay tuned.
MWD will contain all the regular features this year. Except, alas, for the A Deborah Cameron Moment segment – since Ms Cameron has taken a permanent well-earned-break at the insistence of ABC management. She will be missed. New features in 2012 will include “What ABC Types Really Think About The Liberals”, the “Flann O’Brien’s Speaking Truth to Bores” award and the “Undocumented Rumour of the Week” gong. And many, many more – including Nancy’s Sauce Bottle Prize for Journalism without sources.
▪ Waleed Aly – 26 January As A Time To Mourn
What a stunning Australia Day discussion on Waleed Aly’s brand new “Drive” program on ABC Radio National last night. The former Monash University academic who is currently a Ph.D. candidate invited current Monash University academic Dr Tim Soutphommasane and Michael Brull (who is studying for a Juris Doctor at UNSW) into the ABC studio to discuss Australia Day, patriotism, nationalism and all that. It was truly an academic moment – which resembled a doctoral dissertation in the Sociology Department of a university in which everyone pretended to be an intellectual but no one knew what anyone was on about. Little wonder that RN boasts that it “will never be a mass audience network”. You can say that again.
After 30 minutes of verbal (academic) sludge, Waleed Aly wrapped up the session as follows by quoting from a text-message in response to an alienated point made by the alienated soon-to-be-Doctor Brull about how “patriotism is just making a virtue of vanity”. Let’s go to the audio tape:
Waleed Aly: Well there’s a text that might respond to that point, actually: “For the meaning of Australia Day to be true, it is necessary to both celebrate and mourn – not necessarily in that order.”
Not a bad final word to wrap up the discussion. Gentlemen, thanks for coming. It’s been robust and I’ve had fun.
You get the picture. Alas many listeners didn’t. As of 2 pm today, no one – but no one – had commented on the RN website about this, er, robust discussion. [By the way, is this the same Dr S. who refuses to provide evidence in support of his assertions? – Ed. See MWD passim and ad nauseam].
▪ Liberty Sanger – 26 January As Blame Abbott Day
Then, in the newspaper review on ABC TV’s News Breakfast this morning, the sassy Liberty Sanger had no trouble identifying just who was really responsible for the violent demonstration against the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader near the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra yesterday. Tony Abbott, that’s who. Of course.
Let’s push the re-wind button. Here’s what Liberty Sanger, from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, had to say:
Liberty Sanger: I also think that it’s important to recognise why it is that they were storming the restaurant. They were angry at some comments that Tony Abbott had made earlier that day. He had been responding to a question about the Tent Embassy. And they didn’t like the answer – [namely that] he thought it might be time for them to dismantle the Tent Embassy.
Now, for my part, while I may or may not agree with what Tony Abbott had to say – we are a country that praises tolerance. We pride ourselves on being tolerant. While you might not like what someone has to say, it’s important that you none the less respect what they’ve got to say and you tackle the opinion in the court of public opinion.
Co-presenter Paul Kennedy said “yeah”. Had Ms Sanger read today’s newspapers thoroughly, she would have known that Tony Abbott, at an earlier function in Sydney, did not say the Tent Embassy should be dismantled. Also, today’s press reported that demonstrator Pat Eatock accused Julia Gillard of provocation – simply because she attended an official function close to the Tent Embassy. After the event, some of the demonstrators exhibited the Prime Minister’s shoe, which had been dislodged during the ruckus. Clearly Ms Gillard was also a target.
MWD understands that News Breakfast is an early morning program. However, if the likes of Liberty Sanger are going to comment on the day’s newspapers – then producers and presenters should ensure that they have read them. Here endeth Nancy’s lesson – for the moment, at least.
Saturday morning at the nearest coffee shop, marvelling at the power of my own self-promotion. Last week Margaret Simons – whom that idiot Henderson has bagged as a sandal-wearer for many years – revealed in full my complaint to the Australian Press Council about the loathsome privacy-breacher Neil Breen and his conga-line-of-Murdoch-suck-holes at the Sunday Telegraph.
Simons is underrated as a journalist. I gave her the confidential document on a Thursday and her follow up “scoop” was published in full the following day. Sure, I’m a critic of the media. But Simons is an exception to her profession and deserves a Walkley. After all, she believes my self-promotion.
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan (or was it Abraham Lincoln?), you can fool some journalists some of the time. But, hey, you can fool Simons all of the time. She has taken my complaint about privacy seriously. Fair dinkum.
As I said, Simons is my favourite journalist. You bet. Just like Robert Manne is my favourite academic. Last March the professor interviewed me for a La Trobe University “in conversation” function. A good use of taxpayer’ money, I reckon. Robert got a lot of students along for the occasion but he asked all the questions and made all the comments. Apart from me, of course.
Manne said nothing when I accused Australians of “greed” and told him that Aussies were only interested in getting bigger houses, bigger garages, more four wheel drives and sheilas with bigger tits. I then condemned the fact that “people just want more”. I can’t understand why Anne Wright in the Melbourne Herald-Sun (30 March 2011) reported my comments in a critical way. I guess it’s because she’s a troll and a Murdoch hackette. Enough said.
Robert understands me. He knows that I can’t afford to be greedy since the lousy Aussie taxpayer only provides me with a mere $75,000 per year (fully indexed) pension. That’s why I have to earn extra money writing for Tomie Switzer at the “Aussie Speccie”. I also earn some dough on Sky News. Okay, it’s part-owned by the Murdoch Mafia at News Limited. But I reckon I do the world a favour by taking Murdoch’s money. Otherwise he might spend it on spy planes or nuclear weapons or something like that.
I sure hope the mugs at the Australian Press Council don’t wake up to the fact that I didn’t worry about the privacy of others when I wrote The Latham Diaries (MUP, 2005). There I said that a senior Labor MP had a “long running relationship” with a female lobbyist. I named both the bloke and the sheila. Some people say the affair never happened. Well, they would wouldn’t they – to quote Harold Macmillan (or was it Mandy Rice Davies?).
I also named a female journo with whom I “once had a fling”. That’s the kind of feminist I am. When sheilas do something for the public (or private) good – then I give them full acknowledgement. That’s no breach of privacy – just telling the truth.
Oh yeah, I also named a Labor staffer who had an affair with the “missus” of a senior Labor Party hack in Melbourne. This claim was actually true. But, hey, he had it coming. This suck-hole has actually challenged my mental health and said I am as bonkers and paranoid as Richard Nixon. What an a_se hole.
Come to think of it, I also said that my ex-wife was a part-time leso. I just made this up as well but it got a run in The Bulletin. I don’t reckon the knuckle heads at the Press Council will remember any of this. Breen and his fellow rodents at the Sunday Telegraph will soon learn not to breach my privacy by reporting what I said at a public place about my sons’ swimming lessons. Can you imagine a worse breach of my privacy than this?
Sunday evening at the most expensive restaurant, marvelling in the company of my new best friends Michael Kroger and Janet Albrechtsen. In my diaries, I labelled Janet as part of the Tory Establishment and once called her a skanky-ho (or did I say shanky-ho?). Anyrate, as I pointed out in The Latham Diaries, it was all Carmen Lawrence’s fault.
As for that fascist Kroger, I told Maxine McKew in 2002 that the more I see of the Liberals, the more I hate them. Hey, that was a decade ago. Michael has become less fascistic since then and Janet less shanky. And I don’t have any old best friends. Like my one-time predecessor Bert Evatt, all my best friends deserted me and began to plot against me. Like Gough Whitlam and Julia Gillard and their fellow conspirators.
Gee, I wish the F_ _ _ _ _ _ waiter would turn up and bring the F_ _ _ _ _ _ cucumber sandwich starters. Otherwise I’ll give him a punch in the eye. And if Neil Breen reports this in the Sunday Telegraph, I’ll take the matter up with the Press Council. A bloke’s entitled to his privacy.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
YET ANOTHER 180 DEGREE TURN BY ROBERT MANNE – THIS TIME ON KEVIN RUDD AND LABOR – OR HOW TO BE AUSTRALIA’S LEADING INTELLECTUAL
Nancy awoke on Tuesday to read “The Thought of Robert Manne” on the opinion pages of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. It turns out that RM now believes that Labor’s days are numbered and that it’s time to replace Julia Gillard with Kevin Rudd. RM’s piece was extracted from his Left, Right, Left blog, which appears on The Monthly’s website. [I’m that impressed that Professor Manne’s blog lets his readers know that he has twice been voted Australia’s leading public intellectual – Ed].
Nancy has a reasonably good memory and immediately recalled a piece by RM in the July 2010 print edition of The Monthly bagging Kevin Rudd. Could there be an inconsistency between these two instances of “The Thought of Robert Manne”? You be the judge.
Robert Manne on Kevin Rudd as a Useless, Gutless Wonder – 18 June 2010
On 16 June 2010, Professor Manne wrote a piece titled “Rudd’s Collapse” for the July 2010 edition of The Monthly. In between finalising his article and publication, Rudd was removed as prime minister and replaced by Julia Gillard.
In his 2010 contribution to The Monthly, Robert Manne:
▪ Argued that “in the history of Australian politics there has never been a collapse as dramatic, unexpected and unnecessary as the one experienced by Kevin Rudd during the past two months”.
▪ Criticised Labor’s decision to temporarily junk its emissions trading scheme and claimed that “apparently neither Rudd nor his advisers possessed sufficient political nous to see that with the abandonment of his climate change legislation his credibility as a politician of conviction had been almost entirely destroyed”. Manne also canvassed the view that Rudd was a “gutless wonder”. And he described Rudd’s proposed mining tax as “crazy brave”.
▪ Reported that “in the Nielsen poll of early June , the Labor Party’s primary vote had reached the calamitous level of 33 per cent” and that “in the two-party preferred vote, the Coalition led Labor 53 per cent to 47 per cent”.
▪ Depicted Kevin Rudd as “by temperament hyperactive, controlling, hectoring and interfering”. Manne also described Rudd as (i) possessing “a manic work ethic”, (ii) being “bad at delegation”, (iii) “domineering”, (iv) “lacking political touch” and (v) promoting policies which “resemble Walter Mitty dreams”. That’s all folks.
Robert Manne on Julia Gillard as a Useless, Mafia Gang Member – And Why Kevin Rudd Should Become PM Again – 23 January 2012
On 23 January 2012, Robert Manne wrote on his Left, Right, Left blog titled “The Second Rudd Government?”. In his blog, Robert Manne:
▪ Argued that “for its first nine months the Gillard government polled respectably, although even in its honeymoon not even remotely as well as Rudd; in April 2011, however, it crashed”.
Manne made no mention of the fact that the Gillard Government’s collapse in the opinion polls followed her decision to announce in late February 2011 that Australia will have a carbon tax leading to an emissions trading scheme as from July 2012.
▪ Claimed that “Kevin Rudd led one of the most popular governments in Australian political history” and that “Julia Gillard is now leading one of the least popular”.
▪ Maintained that “either the Federal Labor government will agree to go quietly to an ignominious death or it will try to save itself by electing a new leader”. He recommends “a return to Rudd”.
▪ Asserted that “the overthrow of Rudd [in June 2010] must seem to casual foreign observers of Australian politics almost entirely crazy” and maintained that “the anti-Rudd coup sits uneasily in the national political imagination”.
▪ Described Gillard as “the least impressive Australian prime minister since Billy McMahon”.
▪ Claimed that, unlike Julia Gillard, “Kevin Rudd had a vision and an international presence”.
▪ Referred to “Julia Gillard and the faction leaders, Bill Shorten, David Feeney and Mark Arbib” as behaving “like members of a mafia gang”.
▪ Described Stephen Smith as “lacklustre”, Greg Combet as “the quiet pigeon-fancier” and Bill Shorten as “famously ambitious”.
That was Then/This is Now
So there you have it. In June 2010 Robert Manne depicted Kevin Rudd as an incompetent prime minister whose support had collapsed. And in June 2011 Robert Manne depicted Kevin Rudd as a politician with vision who is “fashioned from the kind of stuff of which prime ministers are made”. Robert Manne has twice been voted Australia’s leading intellectual. Can you bear it? [Interesting – I don’t recall any general elections for to choose Australia’s leading intellectual. How do you get a ballot paper? How do you get on the electoral roll? This should be followed up. – Ed].
HORSES FOR COURSES – FRAN KELLY’S BACK
The unfortunate demise of Deborah Cameron has deprived MWD of its “A Deborah Cameron Moment” segment – one of MWD’s most popular features. Sadly Nancy’s Occupy Ultimo cunning plan to put pressure on nice Mr Scott to Bring Back Deb failed. Miserably. However, the ABC’s managing director’s very own cunning plan frees up one of Nancy’s co-owner’s ears to monitor more closely the Radio National Breakfast program with Fran Kelly in the chair. And what a start for 2012 she had.
Unlike Leslie Cannold and Robert Manne, Fran Kelly has never been voted one of Australia’s leading intellectuals. Not even once. But she was voted Number 97 for something or other in the January 2012 issue of the(sydney)magazine and photographed with a friendly horse, apparently at Randwick Racecourse. During the interview Ms Kelly told the horse – who told the reporter – that she and the RN Breakfast team had an adrenalin pump “when the Prime Minister’s office phones and, against expectations, says: ‘Yes, she’ll do the interview’”.
And so it came to pass last Monday that Julia Gillard appeared on Fran Kelly’s first show for 2012. It seems that there was so much adrenalin pumping at Ultimo that morning that Ms Kelly, as they say in journalism, missed the lead.
The big political story of the day was that controversial Labor MP Craig Thomson had written an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph titled “Trials and errors on potholed pokies path”. The Federal MP for Dobell, on the New South Wales Central Coast, welcomed the Prime Minister’s backdown on her promise to support Independent MPs Andrew Wilkie’s plan to insist on a mandatory commitment scheme, which would have required that all gamblers set themselves a limit before playing the pokies.
Craig Thomson, in his Daily Telegraph article, described the PM’s decision to have a 12 month trial in the ACT during 2013 instead as “a victory for common sense”. He wrote that “to do otherwise would have flown in the face of proper policy making”. Thomson also described Julia Gillard’s backdown “as a big win for NSW Labor MPs who have argued this position strongly for the past year and a win for good evidence-based policy making”.
This was a big story. But Kelly asked only one (soft) question on the topic. Then she headed off in praise of the Greens’ policy.
How different the following morning, when Fran Kelly interviewed Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne. The discussion soon got around to Tony Abbott’s proposal that, if elected to government, he would instruct the Australian Navy to turn back boats containing asylum seekers.
Ms Kelly was soon into editorialising mode. She told Pyne that such a policy would be “illegal”, alleged that it was “not safe” and asserted that his claim that the policy had been safely implemented by the Howard Government was “not true”. That’s more like it. And RN Breakfast wonders out loud why Tony Abbott declines invitations to appear.
NANCY’S INAUGURAL BOTTLE OF SAUCE AWARD FOR JOURNALIST SOURCELESS ENDEAVOUR – MICHELLE GRATTAN ON BRUCE WOLPE AND THE PM
This (soon to be) prestigious award goes to Michelle Grattan AO, The Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s political editor.
On Wednesday, Ms Grattan wrote an article for The Age headed “PM’s Jewish move queried”. The line was that Caucus members had objected to giving her new business liaison adviser Bruce Wolpe the specific task of liaising with the Jewish community. Ms Grattan pointed out that Mr Wolpe is Jewish.
And who were Michelle Grattan’s sources. Well, here they are. First up “some caucus colleagues” – followed by “one”, then “another”, then “a third” and then some unnamed “critics”. That was just the ALP. What about the Jewish community. Here Grattan’s sources consisted of “some sources” followed by “one” something or other.
Michelle Grattan AO – another award has come your way.
UNDOCUMENTED RUMOUR OF THE WEEK – PHILLIP ADAMS STEPS UP ON JOHN GORTON
Interviewing Mungo MacCallum on Late Night Live on Monday, Phillip Adams AO referred to the late John Gorton’s “passionate affair” with the actor Liza Minnelli. It never happened, as even the rumour-prone Mungo MacCallum quickly pointed out. He commented that Gorton’s sex life had been greatly exaggerated.
The full beat-up is covered in Ian Hancock’s John Gorton: He Did It His Way (Hodder, 2002). As Hancock documents, Gorton went to hear Ms Minnelli sing at the Chequers night club in Sydney in the late 1960s. After the performance, the Australian prime minister spoke with the American entertainer in her dressing room – in the presence of a minder who was packing the star’s suitcases.
As journalist David McNicoll reported at the time, it was “a scene of complete innocence”. But, to Phillip Adams, a brief back-stage conversation became a “passionate affair”. Well done Phillip AO.
FEATURING MICHAEL PEARCE SC AND DR LESLIE CONNOLD PLUS NEWT GINGRICH AND JULIAN ASSANGE
According to reader feedback, the MWD’s Correspondence section is one of the most popular segments of this blog. Nancy’s co-owner is enormously grateful to correspondents who write to and/or respond to him. Without them, this section would not exist. And what a shame that would be – don’t ya think?
The good news is that, over Nancy’s co-owner’s well-earned break, there has been lotsa correspondence. So stay tuned. Here we go.
PROTECT ASSANGE! ABANDON EVIDENCE
In recent times, leftist sandal-wearers have become most upset about the fate of Australian Julian Assange – who hails from Sandalista Country in north east New South Wales.
On 18 December 2011 a group of Australians – plus some notables such as Noam Chomsky and Ken Loach and, wait for it, Tracy Worcester, Marchioness of Worcester – wrote an open letter to Kevin Rudd urging the Australian government to take steps to ensure Julian Assange’s human rights are protected. [Could this Worcester sheila be related to Bertie Wooster? – Ed].
The petition titled “Mr Rudd: Protect Assange” was organised by Bernard Keane and Elizabeth O’Shea. Signatories included Phillip Adams, Adam Bandt, Bob Brown, Julian Burnside, Leslie Cannold, Mike Carlton, Eva Cox, Malcolm Fraser, Rai Gaita, Robert Manne, Julian Morrow, Michael Pearce, John Pilger, Lee Rhiannon, Guy Rundle and Rachel Ward. A load of Luvvies, to be sure.
The petition received significant media attention on Monday 19 December 2011 – and was pushed by some of the signatories. Michael Pearce SC wrote an opinion piece for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. And Dr Leslie Cannold (for a doctor she is) plugged the petition during a scheduled slot on ABC TV’s News Breakfast to discuss the morning’s newspapers.
In view of the importance of the petition and the high profile of its signatories, Gerard Henderson thought it appropriate to ask Mr Pearce and Dr Cannold to document some of the claims they made in the media about Julian Assange’s public critics. The following exchange reveals that the signatories were not able to support their claims with evidence and appeared disgruntled that they had been asked to do so. Michael Pearce appears to have been taken by surprise by the query. This should not have been the case with Leslie Cannold – she was warned by News Breakfast co-presenter Michael Rowland that her comment about the calls for Assange’s assassination were highly exaggerated.
● GERARD HENDERSON AND MICHAEL PEARCE SC RE HIS ASSERTION THAT NEWT GINGRICH CALLED FOR ASSANGE TO BE MURDERED
Gerard Henderson to Michael Pearce – 20 December 2011
Dear Mr Pearce
I was interested in your piece in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald and in the “Mr Rudd: Protect Assange!” open letter which you have signed.
In yesterday’s Herald you wrote, with reference to Newt Gingrich:
The current front-runner to challenge the incumbent president in next year’s election has branded him [i.e. Julian Assange] an ”enemy combatant” who should be murdered
In the open letter, which you signed, the following comment appears:
Any prosecution of Mr Assange in the United States will be on the basis of his activities as a journalist and editor (Mr Assange’s status as such has been recently confirmed by the High Court in England). Such a prosecution will be a serious assault on freedom of speech and the need for an unfettered, independent media. Further, the chances of Mr Assange receiving a fair trial in the United States appear remote. A number of prominent political figures have called for him to be assassinated, and the Vice-President has called him a “high-tech terrorist”….
I would be grateful if you would provide the evidence which supports your assertion:
(i) that Newt Gingrich has declared that Julian Assange “should be murdered”.
(ii) that “a number of prominent political figures” in the United States have called for Julian Assange “to be assassinated”.
Michael Pearce to Gerard Henderson – 20 December 2011
Michael Pearce SC
Gerard Henderson to Michael Pearce – 21 December 2011
Dear Mr Pearce
I refer to your email of 20 December 2011 which contains some eight links to various written and electronic sources – some of them repeated.
As you will recall, you forwarded this material in response to my email of 20 December 2011 in which I asked you to provide evidence to support your assertions:
▪ that Newt Gingrich has declared that Julian Assange “should be murdered” and
▪ that a number of prominent political figures in the United States have called for Julian Assange “to be assassinated”.
I have carefully read – or watched – all the material you have provided. The facts are as follows:
▪ You still have not provided any evidence of any kind to support your assertion that Newt Gingrich has declared that Julian Assange “should be murdered”.
▪ You still have not provided any evidence that a number of prominent political figures have called for Julian Assange “to be assassinated”. It is true that some prominent Americans have called for Mr Assange to be executed – but only after a trial in which he was convicted. In addition, one-time Democrat adviser Bob Beckel declared in a rowdy exchange on the Fox News Channel that, since he did not favour the death penalty, the only way to handle Julian Assange was to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch”. I do not know anyone who regards Mr Beckel as currently being a “prominent political figure” in the US. He is a commentator and columnist – that’s all.
I am used to political activists verballing people. However, you should be able to do better than this – particularly as your article in last Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald was signed off: “Michael Pearce, SC, is a former president of Liberty Victoria.”
As a prominent barrister you should not be in the game of verballing others. I have not seen – and you have not provided – any evidence that Newt Gingrich said that Julian Assange “should be murdered” or that a number of prominent political figures in the US have called for Julian Assange “to be assassinated”.
The questions remain:
▪ When – and where – did Newt Gingrich say that Julian Assange “should be murdered”?
▪ Who are the prominent American political figures who have called for Julian Assange “to be assassinated”? When – and where – were such statements made.
Over to you. Your current attempt at providing evidence in support of your assertions would not pass a First Year Law exam.
Michael Pearce to Gerard Henderson – 21 December 2011
I’m on leave at the moment & not in the position to respond further to your inquiry. I will do so at the first available opportunity.
Gerard Henderson to Michael Pearce – 16 January 2012
Dear Mr Pearce
Thank you for your email of 21 December 2011 – in which you were advised that you were on leave and not able to respond to my request for evidence. As you will recall, you promised to do so “at the first available opportunity”.
I do not want to hassle you. However, since it is over three weeks since you wrote to me, I am wondering how you are going with respect to this matter.
My questions remain:
▪ When and where did Newt Gingrich say that Julian Assange “should be murdered” – as you asserted in your Sydney Morning Herald article on 19 December 2011.
▪ Who are the “prominent political figures” in the United States who have called for Julian Assange “to be assassinated”? – as you have asserted in the open letter which you and others sent to Kevin Rudd on 18 December 2011.
Just the actual quotations will do. Over to you – when you return from leave. I assume that, as a SC of standing, you do not make claims without documentary evidence.
Michael Pearce to Gerard Henderson – 18 January 2012
I am still on leave until the end of the month.
Michael Pearce SC
Gerard Henderson to Michael Pearce – 18 January 2012
Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you then.
For the record, I was not writing to ask you to produce evidence concerning your professional role as a barrister – but, rather, concerning your position as a public commentator who writes opinion pieces in The Age and elsewhere.
In my view, if a person of your standing alleges that Newt Gingrich has called for Julian Assange to be “murdered” then you should be able to provide the evidence to support such a serious assertion immediately. Alternatively, you should immediately fess up that you had no evidence whatsoever for a charge which was wilfully defamatory unless supported by evidence.
In conclusion, I should note that when I first wrote to you on this matter on 20 December 2011, you were not on leave.
Michael Pearce to Gerard Henderson – 19 January 2012
What I relied on was this passage from the Infowars website:
“Outspoken neocon and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told Fox’s Judge Napolitano over the weekend that Wikileaks is a terrorist organization and its founder Julian Assange should be considered an enemy combatant. Gingrich also appeared on Fox News with Chris Wallace. “I approach this very seriously,” Gingrich told Wallace. “Information warfare is warfare. Julian Assange is engaged in warfare.” “Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed is terrorism. And Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism,” he said.
Gingrich is advocating either the murder of Julian Assange or that he be subject to extraordinary rendition – hunted down, kidnapped, and sent to a secret CIA torture center in Egypt or Poland.
What I am unable to do, while on leave, is substantiate that further. On 21 December I was about to go on leave.
Michael Pearce SC
Gerard Henderson to Michael Pearce – 19 January 2012
What a farce. You signed off your piece in The Age on 19 December 2011 as follows: “Michael Pearce, SC, is a Melbourne lawyer and former president of Liberty Victoria”. A similar, but shorter, statement was made at the end of your piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on the same day.
In other words, you paraded your legal qualifications to give respectability to your claim, inter alia, that Newt Gingrich had said that Julian Assange “should be murdered”.
Today, after a month, you have finally produced what you say you “relied on” for your assertion. Namely, an unsigned “passage from the Infowars website”.
For the record, the full title of this website is ALEX JONES’ INFOWARS.COM BECAUSE THERE’S A WAR ON FOR YOUR MIND.
I would have thought that the full title of the Infowars website would have sent out warning signals for an SC who is a Melbourne lawyer and former president of Liberty Victoria. Alas, no. But first, I should analyse your response.
▪ The passage on which you relied for your assertion that Julian Assange “should be murdered” does not contain this statement. Rather, the passage quotes Gingrich as making this comment:
I approach this very seriously. Information warfare is warfare. Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed is terrorism. And Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism.
Note – Gingrich did not say that Julian Assange should be murdered. The reference to “murder” in the Infowars piece was an interpretation from the anonymous author. It was not a comment made by Gingrich.
▪ There have been trials/convictions for treason going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln’s administration during the Civil War. Terrorism fits within this genre. As you should know, there are many convicted terrorists serving life terms in Federal prisons in the US. Not one has been executed. Even if one were executed after a military trial, this would not amount to murder. There were executions for treason, following military trials, during the administrations of Abraham Lincoln and F.D. Roosevelt. No serious commentator has ever accused either president of murder.
Finally, I offer the following (gratuitous) advice. I would recommend against relying on Alex Jones’ Infowars.com website. Jones is an extreme right-wing conspiracy theorist – part of what I have termed the Lunar Right. However, his views also have an appeal among the North American extreme left. Jones believes that there is a New World Order conspiracy. He is a leader of the 9/11 Truth movement – which blames the Bush administration for the collapse of the Twin Towers. Jones also accused the Clinton administration of involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing. Get the picture? Jones is a psychopathic, ideologically charged, nutcase. He is completely unreliable. If you don’t believe me, I suggest that you read Michelle Goldberg’s article in The New Republic (7 October 2009) or check out one of Jones’ radio rants on his website.
Yet Jones’ website is your source for your (still undocumented) allegation against Newt Gingrich. You should be able to do better than this.
Enjoy the remainder of your leave.
● GERARD HENDERSON AND LESLIE CANNOLD RE HER ASSERTION THAT HIGH PROFILE AMERICAN POLITICANS HAVE SAID THAT ASSANGE SHOULD BE ASSASSINATED
Gerard Henderson to Leslie Cannold – 23 December 2011
Dr Leslie Cannold
I refer to your appearance on ABC News Breakfast last Monday – and to your role as a signatory to the “Mr Rudd: Protect Assange!” open letter which was released to the media on 18 December 2011.
On ABC News Breakfast you claimed that “lots of high profile American politicians have said really quite scary things about him [Julian Assange] needing to be assassinated”. A similar claim is made in the open letter.
My questions are these:
Who are the “high profile American politicians” who have said that Mr Assange should be assassinated?
When and where did the (so far unnamed) “high profile American politicians” say that Mr Assange should be assassinated?
In other words, what is the evidence to support your serious allegations made on ABC News Breakfast last Monday? I assume that you have such evidence in your possession since on your website you describe yourself as having been “noted as one of Australia’s top 20 public intellectuals in 2011”! I assume that noted intellectuals have evidence to support their assertions.
Over to you
Leslie Cannold to Lalita Mathias – 23 December 2011 (3.15 pm)
As well, you can just google it. It’s not like what’s been said about Assange hasn’t been widely reported.
Thanks and have a nice Xmas,
Leslie Cannold to Lalita Mathias – 23 December 2011
In fact, it was so easy, I did it for you.
Gerard Henderson to Leslie Cannold – 10 January 2012
I refer to your emails of 23 December 2011 which I have just noticed – they went to my PA’s email which is not linked to my Blackberry. Unfortunately, due to a technical error, my original email to you was sent from my PA’s email. Apologies.
In my email to you of 23 December 2011, I specifically asked you to name the “high profile American politicians” whom you claim have said that Julian Assange needed “to be assassinated”. The reference is to your comments on ABC News Breakfast on Monday 19 December 2011.
In your response, you forwarded no material of your own but, rather, comments made by others – specifically:
▪ Bernard Keane’s article in Crikey on 19 December 2011 titled “Why I signed a letter in support of Julian Assange”.
Contrary to your claim, Bernard Keane did not name any high profile American politicians who have said that Julian Assange needed to be assassinated.
▪ An article from MSNBC titled “Assange lawyer condemns calls for assassination of Wikileaks’ founder”, dated 2 December 2010. This was essentially a report of comments made by Jennifer Robinson who, as you know, is or was a member of Mr Assange’s legal team.
Contrary to your claim, the MSNBC report did not name any high profile American politicians who have said that Julian Assange needed to be assassinated. It did refer to a former aide to the Canadian prime minister as having made this claim – albeit without a specific quote. However, the person – Professor Tom Flanagan – in question is not a high profile American politician. Also he has withdrawn his comment describing it as “a thoughtless, glib remark”.
As you will be aware, your website refers to the fact that you have been “noted as one of Australia’s top 20 public intellectuals”. You also cite your qualifications as an “ethicist and researcher”. In view of all this, you should be able to name names and produce evidence to support your allegations on ABC TV. So far, you have not done so.
In conclusion, I note that some Americans have called for Mr Assange to be tried for treason and executed. However, this does not equate to assassination. As you should be aware, Abraham Lincoln presided over military tribunals during the Civil War. So did F.D. Roosevelt during the Second World War. So does Barack Obama today.
I have no idea whether Julian Assange would ever be tried for treason in the US. And I have no idea whether, if he happened to be convicted, he would be executed. I would regard the first eventuality as unlikely and the second as highly improbable. However, such an eventuality would not amount to assassination – since it would fit within a legal tradition in the United States that goes back to the Civil War.
So, I ask again:
▪ Who are the “high profile American politicians” who have said that Mr Assange should be assassinated?
▪ When and where did the (so far unnamed) “high profile American politicians” say that Mr Assange should be assassinated?
Just the names – and the sources with original quotations – will suffice.
Over to you.
Leslie Cannold to Gerard Henderson – auto email 10 January 2012
I am away from my desk until 19 January 2012.
I will be checking my emails most days. You may also have luck texting, hard to say, really. I will be working some of the time, so don’t hesitate to make contact if you need me.
If it can wait, then please make contact again after the 19th and we’ll chat then.
Take care until then!
Gerard Henderson to Leslie Cannold – 24 January 2012
I refer to my email of 10 January 2010 following my email of 23 December 2011.
I note that you returned to your desk on 19 January and that you have been busy tweeting throughout most of the month. So I assume that you are ready to respond to correspondence.
My question is this: Have you had any success in finding evidence to support your assertion that a number of “high profile American politicians” said that Julian Assange needed “to be assassinated”.
As I have said – just the names and the sources with original quotations will suffice.
Leslie Cannold to Gerard Henderson – 24 January 2012
This will be the last response of substance I shall make to your emails, the tone of which I consider harassment. I know you don’t like me naming you as someone who fails to disclose your affiliations in public, but hounding me in response, and mischaracterising my paper review segment on the ABC in your columns, is highly unprofessional conduct on your part, and quite frankly, not worthy of a response.
Indeed, you seem a bit confused. I don’t work for you nor in any other way have an obligation to respond to your obnoxiously toned missives at all, little less for a third time. This is especially so after you have admitted and apologised for having gone to press with a misleading account of my paper review of the Assange letter without even having seen the comment I made in response to your first email.
This is a list of all those who have threatened Julian Assange. As you will see it contains many politicians.
My provision of it constitutes the end of my engagement with you on this matter through any other means but our mutual employer or a lawyer.
If I have not made myself clear, what I am saying is, do not contact me on this matter again.
Gerard Henderson to Leslie Cannold – 24 January 2011
I refer to your (somewhat) angry note. In response, I make the following comments:
▪ I am not hounding or harassing you. You went on the taxpayer funded ABC TV News Breakfast program and alleged that a number of “high profile American politicians” have said that Julian Assange needed “to be assassinated”.
If I am asked to provide evidence to support comments I make on, say, Insiders – I provide the evidence. You, on the other hand, resort to allegations of harassment and implied threats of legal action. This seems somewhat sensitive – especially since you are portrayed on your own website as “one of Australia’s top 20 intellectuals”. Once upon a time, intellectuals used to engage in debate.
For the record, no one on the latest list of people you claim has threatened Julian Assange is a “high profile American politician”. Moreover, I note that you now seem to have withdrawn the allegation that these people claimed that Julian Assange “needed to be assassinated”. Now they merely threatened him. This is a quite different allegation.
▪ Contrary to your assertion, there is nothing personal about my quest for evidence. I made the same request to Michael Pearce about a similar (undocumented) allegation.
▪ I apologised for the fact that my email to you went out of my PA’s office email. That’s all. There is nothing else to apologise for. As I wrote in my Sydney Morning Herald column on 27 December 2011, neither Michael Pearce SC nor you have been able to provide evidence for the claims you made about Julian Assange on 19 December 2011. This was true. And it remains true.
As far as I am concerned this correspondence is concluded.
* * * * *
Until next time.