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Key moves to shut down hard questions

Written By: - Date published: 10:07 am, July 18th, 2008 - 31 comments
Categories: election 2008, john key, Media, slippery, spin - Tags:

Part of the Crosby/Textor MO is to avoid any hard questioning or real investigative journalism from the media. Step one in this process is be matey with journos. They’re people too and they can fall for charm.

When that fails and something embarrassing comes out, attack the journo. Key did this over the “we would love to see wages drop” quote, the Kiwisaver leak, and when he said NZ has never experienced internal conflict. English did after he said he would borrow for tax cuts.

When an interview goes wrong and hard questions get asked, either threaten the interviewer with no more interviews or just cut them off. Sources say Key routinely turns down interviews with National Radio. 

Two weeks ago, both Wammo and Havoc grilled Key on his use of Crosby/Textor. Key wasn’t on either show the following week. This week, he was back on Wammo’s show, where, in a bizarre event, a chastened sounding Wammo said â€˜it’s like we’re at a BBQ and two weeks ago we went into the kitchen and exchanged some hard words but now we’re back out by the Barbie and all mates again, eh, John?’. Clearly, words were had by Key’s PR people with Wammo: ‘play nice or Johnny won’t be back’.

It’s not good enough for a politician to start attacking journos for doing their jobs well. The question now: how long will journos put up with it?

[Update: Wammo advises us that no words were had, he just wanted to unruffle any feathers after the tense Crosby/Textor interview. Wammo has some experience with Crosby/Textor in the past though, they pulled Don Brash from his show. SP]

31 comments on “Key moves to shut down hard questions”

  1. insider 1

    I agree the process is insidious and journos have to have the bollox to stand up to it.

    This is not a CT m/o – saying so just displays your ignorance or partisanship. It is basic power politics that predates them – remember HC’s charm offensive with media? What about Thatcher’s use of briefing sessions to friendly media? The presidential entourage on Air Force 1. It does raise the question of the parasitic relationship between news and politics.

    Why for instance does Clark never get asked any questions of substance on her weekly Paul Holmes Interviews and why does he never follow up the questions in any penetrating way? It’s clear they are patsy pre-agreed question lines and he is working through a script, not conducting a real issues based interview. Breakfast TV does the same for all of them.

    Has Helen been back on little creep John Campbell’s show? Wonder how long it took after corngate? Is she still calling media for off the record chats and not leaking information? When is her next interview with Ian Wishart?

  2. Joe Blogger 2

    “Clearly, words were had by Key’s PR people with Wammo: ‘play nice or Johnny won’t be back’.”

    That’s a pretty big accusation Steve, what real evidence do you have that this has occurred or are you simply assuming that this has what has occurred?

  3. insider 3

    Actually weren’t KEy and English criticised by HC for going on holiday with their families that week? Perhaps that is the mundane explanation for the no show? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that two people have had different views of the difficulty of an interview. Are you sure your views are shared by National on the difficulty of the interviews?

  4. Joe. great name, btw. But listen to the Wammo interview. If you know his style, it’s a pretty stunning comment to make.

  5. every politician has fallings out with individual journos. the difference is that National uses these tactics every single time something goes wrong – it’s not the occassional falling out, it’s a concerted policy to stifle independent critique.

  6. lukas 6

    where as calling journo’s creeps/little creeps and wishing death upon them is ok? http://www.scoopit.co.nz/story.php?title=Helen-Clark-on-Ian-Wishart-DEATH-TO-HIM

  7. randal 7

    yeah well wishart is a creep and he is not standing for office. he just slithers around on the margins. John Key should and must be able to answer any question put to him by the media otherwise he is said to be fudging.

  8. Nick C 8

    [Tane: Nick, you’re still banned.]

  9. Quoth the Raven 9

    If Ian Wishart continually made insuations about my sexuality I’d call him a creep too. Ian Wishart is a man who believes abortions cause breast cancer, man never landed on the moon and condoms aren’t safe. Lukas if you think Wishart is worth listening to then so be it but I’m not going take this backward fool seriously.

    Captcha: passed vicious – Ian Wishart?

  10. mike 10

    “Clearly, words were had by Key’s PR people with Wammo: ‘play nice or Johnny won’t be back'”

    Is this an assumption steve or do you have proof?

    More likely he was told by his employers to take a more neutral stance.

  11. mike. have you listened to the interview? No because you’re too lazy to get informed before spouting off. So how can you judge whether the stance was nuetral or not.

    Asking hard questions is not tha same as being biased any more than asking soft quesiton is being neutral.

  12. Bethany Mark 12

    Yeah Barry Soper had a go at National’s new approach yesterday too. He discusses it in his daily politics bulletin (http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/newsdetail1.asp?storyID=140903), saying

    “…and that is hardly surprising considering the State Homie no longer puts himself out there at press conferences.

    The last time he held one was almost a year ago when he was derailed over the Tory’s health policy. He was defending doctors’ charges saying if people didn’t like them they could go out and find another one which, when you’re living in a small town with just one quack, is a little difficult.

    Tory policy releases aren’t presented at press conferences anymore, they’re usually emailed to the press gallery. The ACC policy was a classic example.

    The email arrives just as the State Homie’s off to catch a plane.”

    Or hear Barry have a go at Key on his phone-in to ZB’s Drive show.(this link is from ZB’s week-on-demand function on their website, and the comments on ACC are from about 33 mins, 20 seconds into the hour:

  13. mike 13

    So you don’t have proof and you are making an assumption that keys minders have put the hard word on a journo.

  14. mike – Of course he’s making an assumption. That’s what the “clearly” in the phrase “Clearly, words were had by Key’s PR people with Wammo: ‘play nice or Johnny won’t be back’.” indicates. Given National’s propensity to bully journos that’s a fair assumption.

    Now when you say: More likely he was told by his employers to take a more neutral stance. you are indicating you hold a contrary opinion with the use of the phrase “more likely” – do you have proof to back that assumption up or are you lying?

    Oh and get back to work and stop stealing from your boss.

  15. polaris 15

    Funny that the word “Clearly” which is meant to indicate firmness and accuracy, actually indicates “maybe”.

    You really are an idiot.

  16. Tane 16

    Something’s got your back up today polaris.

    [Oh and bro, language is contextual and also very fluid. If you think meaning is carved in stone then it’s you who’s the idiot.]

  17. insider 17

    Sorry Tane in that context clearly is as polaris described. I can’t see how you can honestly argue otherwise. BTW not disputing the use of clearly, it fits the post and the conclusions.

  18. Quoth the Raven 18

    I think what he is saying is that clearly words must have been had for Wammo to make a comment such as that. Not that he knows words were had in actuality. It’s the use of the word were not clearly that blurs it a little.

  19. Wammo 19

    Jeez did I really sound chastened? I was actually just having a bit of a laugh. If I was John I might have also felt it was a little condescending, though that was not my intention. I guess I was acknowledging that the tone of our last chat was somewhat tense and if anything was out of character when compared to most of our other interviews. I’d rather our weeklies stayed informal because its with a relaxed style that I am able to wander to topics and questions that may not be explored otherwise. The crosby/textor issue however left me little choice but to take a harder approach. The reason this issue has slipped from recent media coverage isn’t because the media aren’t keen to pursue it, but because it is a ‘brick wall topic’. With the same answer repeated back.

    Under no circumstances were we approached by anyone to be nice! I don’t stand for politicians trying to direct the content of my show – and I would certainly let listeners know if that was the case. Just as I did when Don Brash was pulled from my RDU show by his advisors after months of answering “agony aunt” letters. (Oddly enough the side effect of Don’s appearances on the show had the effect of making him more endearing to listeners – but was deemed too risky by his Crosby/Textor advisors.)

    So to make it clear once again – I have complete freedom to ask all political leaders any question (but won’t attempt a second time to ask Helen if she kissed the Pope’s ring).

  20. Tane 20

    insider, I’m not arguing over any particular usage (I haven’t followed the thread), just on the principle that language is fluid, contextual and frequently ironic – not at all rigid like your mate polaris seems to believe.

  21. Wammo. Fair enough, I’ll update the post. I heard that and I just thought ‘that’s odd’ and others I asked about thought it was odd too. Given Key’s record on these matters, put two and two together – seems I got the wrong answer.

    Incidentally, does anyone know why we say ‘put two and two together?’. In Finnish, they say ‘do one and one’ – which seems a much more sensible description of the logic taking place.

  22. Be interesting to hear Havoc’s interview with Key when it’s finally online.. that interview two weeks ago was brutal by the end.

  23. insider 23


    Given you have graciously admitted you were wrong, the better place for your clarification would be at the top of the post so that people can read it before their opinions on the issue are shaped.

  24. lukas

    where as calling journo’s creeps/little creeps and wishing death upon them is ok?

    Wishart isn’t a journalist, though it would be bloody funny watching him try and interview Clark.

    “So, how many babies have you eaten today?”

    Steve Pierson

    Be interesting to hear Havoc’s interview with Key when it’s finally online.. that interview two weeks ago was brutal by the end.

    Whats the bet that lawyers letters start flying, or English has a wee chat to someone high up again?

  25. Razorlight 25

    SP, please don’t take this personally and no offence intended but your credibility took a huge hit today.

    You have always been blindly partisan to a degree not seen in blogosphere with some strange hatred for the right. But when you make up a story like this and it is blown out of the water like it was any hint of persuaion you held in your blogs has now gone.

    Do not use the word ‘clearly’ when it is anything but clear, and in reality, you don’t have a clue.

  26. infused 26

    I agree with Razorlight. This isn’t the first time you have done this. At least now you look like an idiot.

  27. number six 27

    Wow, what a to-do over a word. For what it’s worth, when I read the post, I assumed SP was having a punt about what went on between Wammo and Key. I didn’t see any facts to back up his statement, so I took it as an assumption.

    If people took it as gospel, perhaps they should learn to read blogs more critically.

    Just a thought.

    But now the OP has been ammended to include Wammo’s response, it might be interesting to talk about the main issues – as I understand them – the relationship between journos and politicians, and the absence of Key and the National Party from hard questions.

    I think I just want the Government to set a date, and then we could perhaps negate the whole ‘it’s too soon to release policy’ crap. Of course it’s not too soon. John Key is someone most of us know zip about, and he could be the next PM and his party could be our next government. Why wouldn’t we want to know as much as possible?

    So, please, give us a date and let’s just get on with it.

  28. gobsmacked 28


    The politicians (all of them) are there to spin. Please don’t make it easier for them. Cheers.

  29. Lew 29

    KITNO: “Wishart isn’t a journalist”

    This is what they call the No True Scotsman fallacy. Just because you don’t rate his work doesn’t mean he’s not a journalist. He runs a current affairs magazine. If not a journalist, what is he?

    Snarky answers like `conspiracy theorist’, `raving lunatic’, etc, while I might agree with them, don’t prove your case.


  30. I think hes puts pushing an agenda above informing the public. I don’t consider that journalism.

  31. Matt 31

    It’s not a Croxby Textor thing. It’s a classic politician thing. Watch Helen Clark and you’ll see the true master of avoiding the question.

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