Gower on Clint

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower blogs:

The “Hey Clint!” moment – where Gareth Hughes stops mid-interview and asks a spin doctor what to say – has generated a bit of chatter here and there.

Some people – including even colleagues here in the Press Gallery – have suggested it was wrong to run it, that it was a big call, or even that there were journalistic ethics at stake.

To be perfectly frank, I don’t think this was the ethical issue of the century, or the year, or the week.

Because screening it was the right thing to do. In fact, it was the only thing to do.

I cannot believe there are journalists out there who would think otherwise.

However, I do understand that some in the public like to understand what goes on behind the scenes of political reporting: How we interact with politicians, what’s on and off record, how anonymity and background works. It’s not a secret society – and it shouldn’t be.

So Monday went like this: As soon as my colleague Tova O’Brien finished the interview for my story, she told me what she had.

She’d asked one of the critical questions in the power policy struggle, that after putting a dent in the Mighty River Power sale, potentially wiping hundreds of millions of dollars off it, “are you pleased?”  

Hughes had stopped mid-interview, called “Hey Clint!” and asked political advisor Clint Smith what the answer was.

My thoughts, like Tova’s, were “that’s incredible”. I have never ever before seen a politician call out during an interview for a spin doctor to tell them what the answer is:

Neither have I. You ask them for advice before the interview, but you can’t and don’t ask them for lines during an actual interview. At the end of the day the MPs are the ones who stand for election, not the advisors.

The full video is embedded above.

Now I know a lot of people watch “Hey Clint!” and find it funny.

But to me it showed much more than a bit of humour. It showed what we know – the Greens, like Labour, are trying to act like they are not gleeful that the policy is screwing with the MRP float.

In fact, it looked like Gareth Hughes was stoked. It was in the public interest to run it. No question.

It busted spin, in fact, it blew the spin apart.

It showed that the Greens, like Labour, are trying to come up with ‘lines’ to pretend that it’s not about wrecking the float.

Of course it is an attempt to sabotage the float. The policy could have been announced months ago. In fact why didn’t Labour and Greens campaign on it at the last election – so people had a clear alternative? But they can not accept they lost the election, so are trying to sabotage the float.

If you don’t accept that interpretation, then tell me why else they announced it after the float document was released, and not earlier?

They must be besides themselves with joy. One joint press conference, based on a quickly assembled policy, and they have wiped almost a billion dollars of wealth off investors. think how much more damage they can do if they ever get to actually implement policy. Their printing presses will be going non-stop.

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