It ain’t quite over yet – no relief in sight

I don’t do tea leaves, but I did feel a chill on Sunday when I read this headline in the News over a front page story by Jonathan Marshall.

Vietch Scandal gets worse

It did too. Monday’s New Zealand Herald revealed more about the injuries suffered by Kristin Dunne-Powell.

Veitch left Kristin on floor for hours

And again on Wednesday: CIB detectives on Veitch case

Then on Thursday the axe we’d all been waiting for. Tony Veitch resigned from TVNZ and the Radio Network and a statement from Dunne-Powell’s lawyers confirmed that a complaint had been made to Auckland police.

A week from Hell and there’s no exit sign in view.

No one covered themselves in glory on this story; much mud was flung, some of it stuck. There are still some lingering questions and a long way to go before a full recovery can be pronounced.

I’m curious about a number of things, including did Paul Holmes really write Tony’s statement from a week ago? It seems he might have, though neither he nor anyone else is likely to admit it. Did Radio Network put him up to it? Was it a last-ditch attempt to salvage something?

More importantly perhaps, what were both men thinking when they sat down and recorded this extraordinary interview?

PH: What is your situation, employment-wise?

TV: I don’t know. I don’t know where it’s going …

PH: Well, you’ve been suspended from radio.

TV: Yeah, and they’re currently investigating that internally.

PH: TVNZ?

TV: Ah, at this stage, not sure.

PH: Situation fluid?

TV: Yep.

PH: How much of what happened that night can you tell me?

TV: Paul, for reasons of which I’m sure you’re aware, I can just say there was a terrible incident which I have lived through, thought about, regretted, tried to explain in my own head and in my own heart since it happened two and a half years ago. What I can say is, I didn’t know how to react or handle myself.

Tears well in Veitch’s eyes. He cannot speak.

PH: Go on.

[Holmes interview with Veitch 13 July]

What drugs is PR maven Michelle Boag taking? Just after the story broke two weeks ago Michelle was on TV saying Tony Veitch could be back on air in two weeks and that his career could recover. I wonder if her clients are asking for a rate review, or a second opinion? She was way off the mark.

What drugs should out-to-pasture columnist Garth George be taking? His NZ Herald column on Thursday 17 July was all over the place. I agree with Audent on this one and here’s why.

What I can’t understand is why such a huge fuss is being made over this incident, which happened two years ago, except that it must have something to do with the fact that Veitch is a talking head on TV, a voice on radio and, apparently, an after-dinner speaker.

But even the fact that he’s a public figure doesn’t explain the hysteria that revelations of his contretemps with his former partner have created.

Contretemps? Get real Mr George. This was not a fair fight here, it wasn’t a spat over who feeds the cat or changes the bed linen. There’s was far too much of this type of thinking going on in commentaries on this issue. It’s probably to be expected from some of Tony’s friends, but not independent columnists. On the other hand there were columns like this one by Tapu Misa that put the issue into its proper context.

Not surprisingly, Veitch seems to have played down the seriousness of the assault, both when he told his bosses at TVNZ and The Radio Network late last year and when he made his carefully scripted public apology last week, in which he offered up the classic excuses familiar to those who work with the perpetrators of domestic violence.

Somehow he managed to paint himself as a victim of circumstances. He “agreed to let” his former girlfriend go over to his house; there had been, he told Paul Holmes later, “a terrible incident”, as if he had been its helpless victim rather than an agent.

[When sorry just doesn't cut it]

Tony’s celebrity certainly played a part in this story – a big part. His public profile certainly made the issue front page news and kept it on the front page for two weeks. It certainly would not have received the same coverage if the perpetrator had been my hypotehtical Taranaki bricklayer from a recent post.

However, that doesn’t reduce the severity of the alleged assault, or lessen the potential penalties that could be waiting at the conclusion of a police inquiry. What it does do though, is highlight the issues around whether or not Mr Veitch is/was a role model. I don’t think so, in fact it would be sad if all we had to look up to was talking heads from the television. I’ve been over these arguments, so no need to rehash them here, suffice to say there was some support from editorials here and there.

Finlay McDonald at the SST is one who feels strongly about this.

In the sense that crimes and misdemeanors are inherently signs of society’s disapproval, those who breach our legal and ethical codes are a “bad influence” regardless of their public profile. Men who put women in wheelchairs do not require any extra judgement on the basis of their being role models.

Besides, do you know of anyone who “looks up” to the likes of Veitch and his fellow autocue plug-ins (as I once read them uncharitably described)? They may well be admired or even envied for their jobs, salaries and lifestyles, but that constitutes aspirational behaviour in the same way wanting bigger breasts makes Pamela Anderson a role model for certain women.

[Model behaviour? That's not his role]

I think it’s also time to move on from the TVNZ bashing that has gone on around this story. My consistent position has been that the managers who were told late last year about the incident were not given a chapter and verse statement. I think Rick Ellis’s statement of 18 July bears this out:

While [Tony Veitch] did outline a situation that included a minor fracas two years earlier, this was not the focus of the meeting. The nature of the discussion left those in that meeting, who are all senior and very experienced managers, with the clear view that it was a private matter of a civil nature that was being worked out between the parties concerned.

[TVNZ statement of 18 July]

This story still has a long way to play out. The police investigation may take some time, then there’s the prospect of a drawn-out trial with potentially sensational evidence and more tears all around I suspect.

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2 Responses to It ain’t quite over yet – no relief in sight

  1. [...] is serious – self-destruct season #2 I’m bewildered and saddened. On top of everything else an Australian journalist now facing up to 20 years in gaol for drug offences in [...]

  2. [...] We have the allegations being canvassed high and low – how many kicks and punches, etc; was Ms Dunne-Powell’s back broken or not? [...]

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