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Platforming a Monster
When the legal system is used to further harass victims you know something is fundamentally broken
I had an entirely different newsletter to send out today, but I just scrubbed it and wrote this, because last night I read a headline that made me yelp.
“Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has lost his 10-year legal battle against a press secretary he sexually harassed.”
That story fused itself into my dreams, and when I woke up there was nothing else to do but write about it. So here we are. As usual, let’s discuss it in the comments underneath. I’ll be here to answer any questions.
This story needs some context, to stay with me.
Rewind to 2015, and I was working on a New Zealand news show called Newsworthy. It was a strange year for me, because for the first time in my life I was fronting a news show — co-presenting at 10.30pm with Samantha Hayes.
Let’s be clear: I was not good at this job. I was not a duck to water to reading the autocue and looking straight down a camera. I have a wonky face, a lazy eye, and the studio made me feel nervous and terrified. Sam figuratively held my hand through it, so I survived. But there’s a reason she’s now fronting the 6pm news in New Zealand and I’m writing a newsletter.
It was also weird because I was also making Tickled at the time, which was also a full time job. So I’d be in the Tickled edit booth with our editor Simon from 8am to 2pm, then I’d grab some lunch and run up the road to the TV3 for our news meeting at 3pm, then go and shoot a pre-recorded story which would then go to air that night at 10.30pm on the show I’d co-present with Sam. A lot of my friends worked on that programme too, including Hayden Donnell who wrote “There’s just too much!” here on Webworm.
Our first episode was documented by Duncan Grieve who hung out with us for the day. In that piece, he captured the birth of a segment I’d made called The Sauna Sessions:
In a dark room, David Farrier sits silently, watching himself intently. The on-screen David Farrier is draped across a wooden bench in a wooden room, the sweat pouring off him. They’re editing something called ‘The Sauna Sessions’, for the debut episode of Newsworthy, airing in seven hours’ time. The on-screen Farrier looks years older and near death, but remains committed to the task at hand, thrusting his microphone up toward his subject, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig. The Sauna Sessions is a concept so foolish only Farrier could have dreamed it up: take popular figures and interview them in a sauna, while wearing a suit.
I was proud of the idea. I’d started swimming at the time, and had become a big fan of the sauna at the pool. It had this giant window on the front, so you could look in and see everyone sweating inside (it was unisex, everyone was clothed!).
“That would be a great location for an interview!” I thought to myself.
The window meant you wouldn’t have to take a giant broadcast camera inside (where it would melt), and I figured interviewing controversial figures inside would be both a fun visual gag, but also create in interesting environment for questioning.
This would be the opposite to the comfort seen in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. This would be a hellscape for those who took part; the interview subject’s brain turning to mush and possibly delivering unguarded, interesting answers.
And that’s why I thought Colin Craig would be a great person for the debut of the segment.
Back then in June of 2015, Colin Craig was the leader of the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party stood for all the things you can probably imagine a political party with that name would stand for. Colin’s Wikipedia page sums up all you need to know:
“Craig is a millionaire who owns companies that manage high-rise buildings. His current company manages about $1.3 billion of assets. Upon entering politics in 2011, he opposed same-sex marriage, foreign ownership of land and housing, and “anti-smacking” legislation.”
So yeah, he was a conservative man with conservative views — bad views in my estimation. Views that I think are damaging to society, and damaging to some of societies most vulnerable like the LGBTQI+ community. He was also rich, and he was litigious:
“In February 2014, the-then Green Party co-leader Russel Norman alleged that Colin Craig held misogynistic and homophobic attitudes during a speech at the Big Gay Out event in Auckland. Norman’s comments prompted Craig to file a defamation suit and to demand that Norman issue an apology.”
And yet — he was also whacky. He did photoshoots like this:
And it was that whacky side that won over in my mind. He was a character that would make for good television. Who cares if he was a shitty person — he would be fun to watch and that’s all that mattered.
On top of this, another fact: A woman I went to journalism school with, Rachel MacGregor, had been Colin Craig’s press secretary. I say had, because she’d recently resigned. I didn’t know why she’d resigned, but myself and other journalists were intrigued by it because she’d resigned several days before the election. And that was playing in my mind as I decided to ask Colin to be the debut guest on The Sauna Sessions.
Colin Craig agreed, and this is what happened:
And after a bunch of random statements from Craig we’d cut together like “I don’t believe everything in the world is an accident”, I ended the piece with a question about his former press secretary, my old university colleague:
“Rachel, your press secretary leaving, that’s still a point of discussion out there, is there anything you can touch on there? What happened? We still want to know?” I blabbered out in a sweat-stained delirium.
“Yeah…” he replied.
“It’s human curiosity…” I returned.
“I think resignations of any staff members, particularly two days out from an election, is always annoying. At the end of the day we job shared her position to try and relieve the stress”.
“It’s getting warm aye, it’s getting real warm!” he yelps before we exit the sauna and shower together. For me, this was a real win. Not that final throwaway answer, but the segment in general. It felt hilarious. Here I was, showering on TV with a conservative Christian who isn’t very fond of gay marriage. The whole thing looks pretty… gay. That was funny.
And that was that. Or so I thought.
The sauna interview went to air on June 9th, 2015. On 27 June, Colin Craig was formally suspended from the Conservative Party.
“Do you regret doing the interview in a sauna?” presenter Paul Henry asked Colin a week earlier.
“Personally I saw it differently from the way a number of board members saw it” replied Colin. “I thought a challenge in Auckland’s hottest sauna to stay there for 30 minutes was kind of fun. I understand that’s not the perception — that’s not how everyone wants a political leader to act.”
“We’re being told this is the final straw” Paul Henry responded.
It was the final straw. Colin Craig was out of the party he’d founded, politically kicked to the curb. The leader showering with a half-dressed me had allegedly been the final straw for the board.
I had no idea that footage of me in that sauna would go on to be played in the Auckland High Court.
“Colin Craig defends infamous sauna interview” was the headline on May 11, 2017. It was years later. I’d finished Tickled and quit Newsworthy. I’d embarked on a new life of documentaries, podcasts and newsletters.
In the meantime Colin Craig had fully embraced his litigious streak, embarking on a number legal pursuits to get justice:
Colin Craig has defended a controversial “sauna interview” with former TV3 journalist David Farrier, telling a court he thought viewers would find it entertaining.
In the 2015 interview, played in the Auckland High Court on Thursday, the increasingly sweaty duo sat in a hot sauna and discussed a range of topics, including the moon landing and junk food.
Farrier gradually stripped off items of clothing before he and Craig showered together…”
And this is where this newsletter gets a bit meta, because, well, so far this newsletter has been all about me and my whacky sauna interview. It’s been the David Farrier and whacky Colin Craig show.
The real subject that is worthy of our attention has been mentioned fleetingly.
Moved past. Largely ignored.
Her name is Rachel MacGregor, and like most victims in life, she has been forgotten in lieu of the monster. We know Ted Bundy, but who can name a single one of his victims?
But like most victims, Rachel is not really a victim. She is a fucking hero.
See, when that first episode of Newsworthy went to air, something had happened that I was completely unaware of at the time.
In asking that stumbling question about Rachel — “Your press secretary leaving, that’s still a point of discussion out there, is there anything you can touch on there?” — and in Colin Craig answering — Colin had breached an order I didn’t know existed:
Craig had agreed to the [David Farrier sauna] interview despite the confidentiality of his and MacGregor’s settlement of a sexual harassment complaint she had laid with the Human Rights Commission.
Yes, Colin Craig sexually harassed Rachel MacGregor.
I can write this now and its not defamatory, because the High Court ruled it back in 2019:
A High Court judge has found that Colin Craig sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor for years.
The finding from Justice Hinton released on Thursday morning said Craig's letters to MacGregor when he was leader of the Conservative Party were “highly inappropriate” for an employer to send to an employee and had “clear sexual content”.
Craig’s letters, texts, and comments were unwelcome to MacGregor from early 2012 onwards and the sexual harassment covered a period of approximately two and a half years, the judge found.
Craig had started his “unwelcome” letters, texts, and comments to Rachel approximately three years before my sauna interview.
That is when Rachel’s ordeal started. Her older, much richer and much more powerful boss sexually harassed her.
But that was not enough for Man of God Colin Craig. Rachel’s ordeal continued as Colin Craig pursued her for defamation. He would not let her go. He would not let her out of his grasp. He had millions. She had nothing.
“This decision is the third to find that Mr Craig sexually harassed me,” Rachel said back in 2019. “After all this time, and all this litigation, I just want this awful ordeal to be finally over.”
Her ordeal wasn’t over.
Craig went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the 2019 ruling. The court dismissed it. Craig then challenged that decision, taking it to the Supreme Court.
And yesterday, the Supreme Court dismissed his bid.
This headline captured the weariness of it all: Supreme Court to Colin Craig: “Stop now.”
It’s been reported the legal fees for just one of Rachel’s many cases with Colin Craig was about $300,000. Yes, defending yourself costs money — even if you’re found out to be in the right. She got by thanks to kind, smart lawyers like Linda Clark.
So while her ordeal is technically over, it isn’t. She’s $300,000 in over her head and counting. Colin Craig was ordered to pay a grand total of $2500 to Rachel in yesterday’s Supreme Court finding.
What does this tell victims? Don’t speak up.
Rachel spoke up to the Human Rights Commission about her situation back in 2014. They reached a confidential settlement. Rachel expected that to hold. She would move on, and — in her words — “rebuild her life”.
Then in 2015 I invited Colin Craig into a hot sauna for a whacky segment.
Fuelled on ego and excitement, I gave the conservative Christian politician a platform — and in doing so unwittingly allowed Colin Craig to break a confidentiality agreement:
The Human Rights Tribunal found that Mr Craig had “at all times been in a more powerful position than Miss MacGregor. He has used his power and wealth to conduct a calculated campaign of breaches for the sole purpose of attempting to bolster his reputation.”
I did to Colin Craig what Jimmy Fallon did to Donald Trump. Fallon, ruffling Trump’s hair. Me, topless, joking around with Colin. It was an image that instantly excused all that bad shit. It was an image that said “This person is harmless and your friend”.
Colin raged on through the courts for years, chasing Rachel MacGregor down using the system to further harass her. A system he knew and could afford to use, seemingly limitlessly, with limitless money.
Now almost a decade later, the legal nightmare is over. I can’t fully imagine the mental toll on Rachel. Or the financial toll.
And the lesson victims learn through this? Don’t speak up.
But Rachel did and she’s not a victim she’s a fucking hero. As is anyone who speaks up.
Before I slept last night, and before I wrote this, I posted the news headline about loser Colin Craig on my Instagram. A well meaning person wrote that while Rach is hero, she’s also “wrecked and vulnerable.”
Rachel wrote back: “I’m not completely wrecked.”
There is a trust for Rachel. Full disclosure: I was there when it was launched, and I have happily given. I went to journalism school with Rachel MacGregor. And I put Colin Craig on TV when I shouldn’t have.