Tony Veitch: monster or victim? A couple of questions for the Dom Post

I suppose the argument goes that it’s a good yarn and deserved to be told because domestic assault is a serious issue and knowing about public figures who are alleged wife-bashers is in the public interest.

But I can’t help wondering why the Dominion Post felt it was the right thing to do to break the Tony Veitch story on Monday some two years after the alleged assault and cover-up.

I’d like to know why the paper thought exposing Veitch and Dunne-Powell and their families was in the public interest.

And I think we should be asking who the anonymous source is on this story, particularly when the juciest quotes are attributed to this obviously knowledgable source:

Rumours of the incident, which happened after the couple ended their four-year relationship, have circulated for more than a year.

“Kristin had been living at Tony’s house in St Heliers in 2005 but she had moved out when this happened,” a source, who asked not to be named, revealed.

“It was really very nasty indeed. Kristin was in a wheelchair for some time but they agreed to stick to a story that she had fallen on the stairs. I’m still not sure why Kristin did that, but obviously Tony was worried it could finish his career, and he loves his job.

“They both moved on with their lives but the repercussions went on and on. There have been rumours, but they’ve been able to keep a lid on it. Then the lawyers got involved, there were negotiations and Tony made an offer. He just wanted it to go away – forever.”

I was asked to comment on TV3 last night and said that I thought Veitch was the victim of his own celebrity. If he’d been a bricklayer, or bus driver it’s unlikley that the story would have got such a run, or become such a cause celebre in the  small New Zealand media gene pool.

Given the serious nature of the allegations and the high profile Veitch enjoyed as one of the country’s top sports journalists (a reputation I have no comment on) I told TV3 that TVNZ and the Radio Network had no choice but to cut him loose.

But I had an interesting email from a friend this morning (whom I won’t name, but whom I can vouch for). He pointed out that Tony should probably have not been on air on Monday night for his own health and safety.

Saw a clip of you last night on 3, and throw the following into the mix:

One point missing from (or heavily disguised in) Veitch coverage are the separate duty of care and fiduciary duty responsibilities which rest on his employers:  IE, they should be careful in letting an employee in crisis on air because of the health and other personal risks to them, and the potential for commercial/broadcasting standards harm in the event of performance failure by the employee in crisis (and the consequent actions against the company by regulator, audience, advertisers, and employee, etc).  In my view these considerations (quite distinct from, and without prejudice to, the wider “who did what” employment and public interest issues which are being heavily canvassed) should have meant that Veitch did not front his programmes on the day the story broke, and until such time as individual and corporate safety could be properly assessed.

Well, that’s a valid point and one that Tony’s lawyers might want to consider this week as all legal issues are canvassed.
Now the Dom Post is again using anonymous sources to claim that Veitch’s assault on his former partner was so “vicious” that her back was broken in four places. We’re all assuming that this is true – the source is identified as a former colleague of Kristin’s at Vodafone. If it’s not then Tony may have some grounds to sue media organisations for defamation. He may anyway as it seems his livelihood has been destroyed.
Is this fair? Veitch has been described as a “role model” to thousands of young Kiwi men; he’s also been blasted repeatedly on a number of blogs – there’s no sport more satisfying that putting the boot in to someone who can’t hit back.
Is that perhaps the moral of this sad tale?
Personally, I think that suggesting someone like Tony Veitch is a role model is stupid. The guy’s a minor celebrity in the media pond. He’s never been an All-Black and let’s be blunt they don’t exactly live up to role model status either, even though they’re heroes to many rugby fans.
I still believe we should ask the Dom Post why they ran this story in the first place – what is the real public interest here? Apart from either delighting in Tony Veitch’s downfall, or feeling sorry for all parties involved – both of which are emotional responses – what is the over-riding public interest?
Is it that it’s a lesson that no one is above being found out for spousal abuse, or that a vicious assault should never go unpunished; or is it about cutting down a shortish tall poppy?
I’m not sure of the answer, but I’m not 100 per cent convinced there is an over-riding public interest here. I’m also not sure what public good is served by making an example of Tony Veitch.
His life is ruined; his marriage and financial affairs are in the public spotlight and Ms Dunne-Powell is having to relive her own nightmares.
What good does that serve?
I also wonder about the value of Tim Selwyn’s contribution at Tumeke [scroll to entries from 8th and 7th July] where he’s poured some nasty scorn on Tony Veitch. What’s that about Tim? Do you think it’s necessary? I don’t think you would have had the courage of your convictions to spew the hate if Mr Veitch had been fit enough to fight back.
BTW: I won’t be signing up to any Facebook group that wants to further humiliate Mr Veitch, I’ll leave that to the experts.
Add-on: Just a quick note to suggest that Tony Veitch has no future, at least in the NZ media market. He was listed as a celebrity speaker with Celebrity Speakers (NZ), but a search of the site today makes it seem that he’s been taken down, or de-listed. A cached copy of the site does contain Tony’s bio:

26 Responses to Tony Veitch: monster or victim? A couple of questions for the Dom Post

  1. jafapete says:

    Martin,

    Could you please clarify the “health and other personal” hazards to which Veitch was exposed by going on air?

    Also, given that most of the media are profit-making private-sector organisations, why should they be expected to be any more ethical than anybody else, save for the requirement to maintain accuracy, which is essential for a functioning democracy? Otherwise, don’t the public decide what it is “interested” in?

    (Note, some of these points are deliberately posed in a faux-naive way, and I am very much in favour of a significant state-owned media presence to keep the capitalists honest. But that’s a practical response.)

  2. Pete, the point is that Tony would have been very tired and emotional after the jolt of the Dom Post story and the rest of the day’s events. The whole thing became a media circus very quickly and he was the star clown at the centre of the ring.
    I think my mate’s concern was that given his fragile mental state at that point he could have done something that both he and TVNZ would later regret – such as go “Oh Fuck….etc…shit, damn, fuck the Dom Post, bastards, I’m fucked…etc”, without even thinking about it.
    A whole pail of pain for all.

  3. chika says:

    “the point is that Tony would have been very tired and emotional”
    That is ridiculous. He broke her back in 4 places. She could have died.

    Being on television on a sports programe does make him a role model for young men. This is serious assault and not just a slap. The fact she didn’t go to the police shows serious control over her, which is worrying.

    No matter how sorry he is now, he must be placed responsible for his actions and in my opinion be charged with grievous bodily harm.

  4. Peter Malcouronne says:

    Martin,

    Are you suggesting Selwyn would’ve reined in his scorn had “Vichy” been up for a blue? Come on, that’s macho nonsense – exactly the sort of logic that leads to broken backs (though I concede Selwyn would’ve smashed the jock-sniffing git if it came to that).

    Take your point about poor Ms Dunne-Powell. For the rest of her life – well, the next decade anyway – she’ll be defined by her beating. That’s a heavy cross to bear.

    PS. Just seen the self-styled zany one’s “contrition” on Prime. Does it take lawyers THAT long to draft a simple mea culpa? I’m in the wrong game!

  5. Sandra Dickson says:

    Martin,

    you’re absolutely right when you say if Tony Veitch hadn’t been Tony Veitch the DomPo wouldn’t have been interested in this story. But then a bricklayer would not have been able to pay his ex-partner $100,000 to stop her making a complaint to the Police which would potentially lead to a custodial sentence.

    Class plays out for those who perpetrate violence in complex ways.

    I do think this was in the public interest, partly because the stereotypes the media plays with around violence (perpetrator: brown man) are so embedded in how we think about violence that whenever anything challenges them in any way it’s a good thing, partly because I believe we have a serious problem with violence in New Zealand and until we name it, own it, face up to it, we’re not going to change it.

    I’m afraid I have less sympathy for Mr Veitch than you do. But then I’ve been working with women who have experienced violence from male partners for more than a decade – and my suspicion is, as with most domestic violence, that this may prove to be not an isolated incident.

  6. Kelly Robertson says:

    Isn’t the public interest quite clear? A leading figure on our state broadcaster subjects his partner to domestic abuse which we all know (without being told through the state-funded ads on said channel) “is not OK”? We are also waiting for answers from TVNZ as to how long it has known about this – a major concern if they are complicit in any way. And surely you don’t have to be an All Black to be a role model, everybody’s a role model – your “bricklayer” included. Can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen, I say. His high-profile job no doubt helped him get the $100,000 “hush money” – a privilege Joe Bricklayer wouldn’t have. The Dominion Post deserves praise for its use of anonymous – but credible – sources to shine light on this unsavoury incident. I would be much more concerned if media didn’t cover stories like this because its a “family matter”. I seem to recall a time when our police didn’t look at domestic violence for the same reason too.

  7. Truthseeker says:

    Great post. I wish the DomPost would show the same commitment to exposing the facts about National’s dirty secret (their policies) as they do to exposing these private disasters and tragedies.,

  8. […] Ethical Martini questions whether it really is the public’s interest to haul up a something involving a minor celebrity that occurred two years ago. Martin is right that Veitch is a victim of his own success, as a bricklayer would not receive such attention. Celebrity as a news value does not really impress me! The one part of the story that remotely interested me was the huge amount of money ($100,000?) paid by Veitch to keep his ex-wife quiet. Whether the incident was worthy or not of national awareness, Veitch should not be able to get away with beating up a woman, and then paying for her silence. With the problem this country has with domestic violence, no incident should be condoned or go without consequences. He has been publicly shamed, and risks losing good jobs with TVNZ and Radio Sport. Veitch is clearly very sorry now. […]

  9. I agree with you to some extent, but I think that Veitch can not be allowed to buy his ex-wife’s silence, having allegedly beaten her to a pulp. What I hope for is that the issue can put the focus on domestic abuse and the causes of the problem. Veitch’s press conference dealt with these causes, although he did not offer them as excuses, Veitch said his 7 days a week of work led to a great deal of stress and he just popped. Stress is likely a large part of the problem, and although does not excuse or justify abuse, it is probably a considerable factor in most cases, so should be addressed. Veitch disclosing that he sought counseling is also important, as professional help could also decrease cases. I’m by no means an expert on violence, it is certainly not in my nature, but I think it is important we look at why domestic violence occurs, and as a society address these factors.

  10. Alison says:

    Tony Veitch has been exposed for the bully he is. Anyone who beats someone so badly they need hospitalization and then blackmails that person into saying nothing is a bully of the first order. He deserves every bit of criticism he is currently receiving.

    Apparently there is a history of unfortunate comments and behaviour from him. He has at last been found out. No doubt he hoped his (in his pitifully small mind) fame would be protection.

    So now he is full of remorse and sorry for what happened. Evidently he wasn’t too sorry when he beat his partner; evidently he was concerned only with his image; evidently he felt $100,000.00 was enough to buy silence; evidently he is stupid and arrogant.

    Obviously he is saying all the right things now – well he would wouldn’t he!! It’s not exactly rocket science to join those dots. He is extremely fortunate he didn’t face a charge of murder when this battering occurred.

  11. Tu ne cede malis says:

    he should still be charged, the police should step in, BOTTOM LINE. A media conference and $100,000 pay out does not exonerate you from the law. Hey, but it really is OK, this charade shall prove thus…

  12. Tu ne cede malis says:

    again, he should be telling the judge, not the public…

  13. Kelly Robertson says:

    Martin, can help but have noticed you commenting on Veitch’s future (or not, according to you) on television and in the Herald this morning. For something you seem to think doesn’t deserve the oxygen of publicity you seem to be… giving it oxygen?

  14. […] A couple of questions for the Dom Post […]

  15. Hmm, OK Kelly. I don’t think the story shouldn’t get coverage. It’s obviously a big story for various reasons, but I think it’s legitimate to comment on the coverage and to respond to questions about whether or not Tony might keep his job.
    I’m sure we’ve all got an opinion on that.
    BTW: I think that your comments and others to this post have been instructive. You might have heard me this morning say that while I’m questioning the Dom Post’s motives, I now have a clearer view of the public interest in this story, which I see now is quite high.
    So thanks for your points and those of other readers.
    EM

  16. Tu ne cede malis says:

    Has he gained a new following in popularity or has his popularity diminished? i.e. that is the key issue for his employer, how would you gauge this ? SENTIMENT TOWARDS TONY VEITCH TODAY ? LAST WEEK ? NEXT MONTH ?

  17. Concerned says:

    What saddens me about this whole incident is exposure of what a large percentage of NZer’s really think about domestic violence. What I’ve heard from people over and over again in the last 3 days is a sentiment that this incident is a private matter. As a poster has already said, this reflects the “good old days” when police/neighbours and family members didn’t interfere. People have also talked about what she may have said or done to “provoke” him. In my view, a crime is never a private matter. That’s why the Police prosecute perpertrators and not the victims.

    As for your view that Veitch is a victim of his fame, I couldn’t disagree more. He is facing consequences commensurate with his job. If a doctor or lawyer committed the same crime, they would be struck off their respective socieities and would face media exposure (not on the same scale but the papers always have court reporter sniffing around for unusual stories).

  18. Tim Selwyn says:

    What do you mean “fit enough to fight back”? He was fit enough to go on and read the sports news as usual on the Monday. He sickens me now in addition to irritating me.

    My criticism of him is well-founded.

  19. Medusa says:

    Whilst not having an intimate knowledge of the particular incident, most particularly I question why it has taken 2 years to be a matter of public discussion. I read extensively regarding domestice violence & it shocks me that it “may” not always be seen as a major issue in any country these days. It should disappoint all commentators that the whole sad incident was covered up in the first place & dare I say, to protect one’s own “public” image!

    Brick layer, surgeon, solicitor, police officer, toilet cleaner, all equally accountable for their actions; commensurate indeed! Does that mean some are better than others and therefore deserve better or exceptional treatment if they choose to violently abuse someone?

    Purely in my opinion any person who choose to abuse deserve what they get, albeit at the immediate time should have been the time. These days should these people be out there in the public domain then they will suffer the consequences of their actions as the public will see fit; they will no longer have control, it will be the media as has proven the case here it seems.

  20. Concerned says:

    Medusa, what I meant when I said that he is facing consequences commensurate with his job, is that he has enjoyed the advantages of fame and now he has to face the consequences. In other words, if you are on TV, and you violently assault your partner, it will be frontpage news. I have no sympathy for him and don’t think he deserves any special treatment. I can’t stand this argument that somehow Veitch is being “victimised” because of his fame.

    NO such thing. He has enjoyed the benefits of fame and now he has face the other side of fame – ie your actions are exposed to media scrutiny.

    If you are a doctor, you enjoy the benefits of having job security and decent salaries. But the converse if that if you commit a crime, you will be struck off and not be able to work as a doctor anymore. In my view, thats fair.

  21. Hamish says:

    There are some interesting points here, most circulating on what level of punishment Tony should face. From what I can read, the facts as they stand say only this.. Tony has admitted to something – the ‘something’ is still to be made clear. That’s it.
    No bashings, kickings, throwings or anything – just an admission that something occurred which he regrets. This validates nothing that’s been reported as being fact other than some level of altercation. Until the lady who accepted the money actually speaks – or police make a decision pending an investigation – then all we have is unsubstantiated rumour. I’m sorry but an unnamed former work mate doesn’t work for me as a realiable source. In fact I think it exposes those who ‘broke’ this story liable to defemamation, if the reports prove to be innacurate. Tony’s career, livelihood and quite possibly his marriage are all under extreme scrutiny, yet in all of this we have not heard a peep from the alleged victim. Her story has not faced the same level of scrutiny – actually, none at all. Will she ever face questions as to why she took the money, or how she came to leave her job or what actual injuries did she suffer? I believe until they’re answered, (or Police make a finding) we’re left watching a man’s life hang out to dry without a fair trial (so to speak). I’m starting to fear no one actually wants to look the other way cause ‘it’ll look bad to poke around the victim’. Or worse still, Tony the cannon fodder, may actually start to look good. Or are people scared of what they’ll find – perhaps some reasoning to all this? Until she faces some level of scrutiny I can’t write this guy off. It’s far too easy to joing the mob than employ some rationale thought. Even those on death row sit there for years so they can exhaust every avenue before they flick the switch – I wonder it Tony will be afforded the same before people flick the switch on his career and livelihood.

  22. Medusa says:

    Point taken however if the victim has been paid “hush money” or signed some form of confidentiality agreement as previously suggested, her hands (& mouth) are tied & gagged; she may be breaching those conditions to her own detriment should she make any public comments, unfortunate I agree but this may have been part of “the deal” to make the issue go away quietly.

    As a result the whole picture may never be out there truthfully for public consumption unless pursued by Police or if they choose to, his employers.

  23. […] It certainly would not have received the same coverage if the perpetrator had been my hypotehtical Taranaki bricklayer from a recent […]

  24. […] my original post on this issue [Tony Veitch, monster or victim?] I raised some questions about the anonymous sources being used by the Dominion Post. The whole […]

  25. […] have the allegations being canvassed high and low – how many kicks and punches, etc; was Ms Dunne-Powell’s back broken or […]

  26. […] – bookmarked by 2 members originally found by chainicin on 2008-09-28 Tony Veitch: monster or victim? A couple of questions for the Dom… […]

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