Public health researchers apologised to after Dirty Politics attacks – In the News

Another chapter of Dirty Politics has closed this week, years after Nicky Hager’s original 2014 investigation into political attack blogging.

Public relations consultant Carrick Graham apologised to three public health researchers, The Spinoff’s Alex Braee reported from a socially-distanced Auckland High Court yesterday.

His apology says that a “number of statements” he made under pseudonyms on blogs published on the now-defunct Whale Oil website about the plaintiffs were “untrue, unfair, offensive, insulting and defamatory.”

The proceedings were brought by Doug Sellman of the University of Otago, Boyd Swinburn of the University of Auckland, and Shane Bradbrook, formerly of the Māori Smokefree Coalition, and currently a senior adviser in Te Arawhiti the Office for Māori Crown Relations.

NZ Doctor reporter Martin Johnston wrote the case was settled less than four hours after the trial started, and included an undisclosed financial sum to the plaintiffs. Several outlets cited both Graham’s apology, and the plaintiffs’ joint statement in response to the case settlement.

Sellman told Susie Ferguson the day after that the way the trial ended came as a surprise.

“Although we were aware of concerns in the defendants, but we certainly didn’t think it was going to be ended in the way that it did, in such a dramatic way with this apology.”

The New Zealand Herald’s David Fisher reports Swinburn alleged the man that wrote that the defamatory online attacks was funded by money from ‘Big Sugar and Big Tobacco’.

“I hope that uncovering these connections between big money, underhand PR and defamatory blogs is a wake-up call and we can begin to see better public health policies from Government.”

The case was covered by local media, including: 

The Spinoff: Crushing defeat for Dirty Politics PR man with apology to defamed academics
RNZ: Dirty Politics: Saga ends with Carrick Graham apology in court
Morning Report: Public health advocates win settlement, apology in WhaleOil defamation case
NZ Herald: ‘Hit’ jobs case: PR consultant apologises and promises cash to settle defamation case that came from Dirty Politics
NZ Doctor: PR man Carrick Graham apologises for Whale Oil defamation of public health advocates
NBR: Carrick Graham apology ends Dirty Politics defamation saga
Newsroom: Payment, apology in Dirty Politics case