herald

Monday 20 August 2018

I am outraged and offended over claims that my questions to Taoiseach were just a set-up

RECENT characterisation of my question to the Taoiseach about his Morning Ireland interview is outrageously offensive. It's also wrong.

Noel Whelan (Irish Times) describes TV3 (represented in this case by me) as utilising a 'cynical device' originating with Lyndon Baines Johnson, former US President.

False

The columnist detailed how the former US president told an aide to publicise a gross -- and false -- allegation about an opponent and, when challenged by the aide, said "Of course it's not true, but let's make the bastard deny it".

The situation last Tuesday morning could not have been more different.

The Taoiseach did a seriously below-par interview.

While the interview was still on the air, reaction started through texts, tweets and phone calls to radio programmes. One wire service put out a story alerting international audiences to the issue.

Against a growing background of articulated concern about the Taoiseach's use of alcohol, and in light of my own preliminary research which revealed he had been socialising the previous night, to a point five hours before a key national interview, my question was utterly different to the LBJ device.

I put facts to Brian Cowen and invited his response. I did not put lies to him and invite him to deny them.

Before he articulated such a damaging and false statement about the political editor of a national broadcaster, The Irish Times' Noel Whelan could have checked the facts with me.

He didn't do that. Instead, he chose to rely on the impressions and opinions of a political reporter on another station.

Mr Whelan rightly pointed out in his Irish Times column that Irish politics now operates in a transformed media environment.

Truth

As a powerful and influential writer, he might also have pointed to the unchanging imperative for all good journalists: to seek the truth on matters of national significance without fear or favour.

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