RTE tried to derail my campaign with link to druglord cousin, claims Gay Mitchell
GAY Mitchell has claimed that RTE tried to stitch him up by linking him to his criminal cousin George 'The Penguin' Mitchell.
The Fine Gael candidate has lashed out at the national broadcaster suggesting it purposely tried to damage his campaign.
In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Mr Mitchell said that it was "voyeuristic" to question him about the drugs lord.
"Nobody should ask you those questions," he fumed when quizzed about his tetchy reaction to a question on a recent Today With Pat Kenny.
A member of Gay Mitchell's campaign team also suggested that the question may have been an example of dirty tricks as the caller was never identified.
But RTE has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, telling the Herald that the question was "in the public interest".
Mr Mitchell argues that the station should have vetted the question from an "anonymous" caller.
"I think RTE knew quite well they were going to ask that question. It didn't come up on the spot."
The Dublin MEP added: "I don't think it was right for a public service station to ask that question."
George Mitchell is an international drugs dealer who has been living abroad since the mid-Nineties after a crackdown on drug gangs following the murder of Veronica Guerin.
The fact that he is a first cousin of the politician has been well documented in the past.
A spokesman for RTE radio defended the Today With Pat Kenny programme, stating: "RTE interviews are conducted with rigorous regard to balance and fairness. RTE believes the question was legitimate in the context of a well-rounded, extensive and balanced interview, and that the asking of it was in the public interest."
Asked by the Herald why he doesn't like people to mention the family link, Mr Mitchell said: "I have cousins who are ambassadors, senior people in the Defence Forces, people married to senior people in security forces, my mother's brother was a garda sergeant. I met a cousin in Kildimo two weeks ago that I didn't know was a cousin. He was a garda there, but none of them have anything to do with me."
He admitted that journalists and the public "might like to know about your private life". "But because you run for public office doesn't give people the right to ask those questions. I think for a public broadcaster it was an improper question to ask."
Mr Mitchell also told the Herald that their have been dirty tricks at play in the Aras race.
Speaking about the controversy over letters he wrote appealing for people not to be subjected to the death penalty, he said: "I suspect that those things haven't come up by accident.
"You'd often wonder and I have wondered myself."