The fallout from Danny Williams June 16 verbal attack on Open Line host Randy Simms continues to radiate outward, in all directions.
Last week, I heard talk radio host Bill Rowe state that, of the large volume of email received on this issue, the ratio was easily 4:1 in support of Simms and/or demanding an apology from the premier.
In the subsequent Weekend Telegram (June 20), both Russell Wangersky and Bob Wakeham went after the premier, pointing out that his behavior has no place in a democratic society.
The letters to the editor pages have seen plenty of follow-up too. They seem to be roughly evenly split between yaysayers and naysayers. However, those who defend the premier are not actually doing so, probably because the premiers behavior is not defensible instead, they are attacking Simms for having the temerity to say something negative.
There can be no question that the premier opened mouth and inserted foot. However, on the day after his outburst, on CBC Radio Crosstalk, the premier was unrepentant, effectively opening his mouth long enough to remove one foot and insert the other.
The truly bizarre thing about this story is how the premiers intemperate behaviour has overshadowed the good news of his own announcement. How many people are talking these days about Hibernia South? No, everyone is buzzing about our hotheaded premier.
Another case in point: Telegram columnist Peter Jackson has come up with his own term for it: PNC, which stands for Pessimism, Negativity and Crap. I think it is destined to become part of the shorthand around here, at least in media and blogger circles.
I can hear it now: Dang, I got another call from the premier, accusing me of PNC!
Interestingly, the premiers attack on Randy Simms is not an isolated event. A few days back, Williams telephoned journalist Greg Locke to complain about a column in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. You can read Lockes full column here, but heres a snippet:
Sure, when it comes to the provincial government there is always something to scream, laugh or roll your eyes at, but people need a break. The minister of health and the Eastern health board are playing the blame game, the premier is dodging a slate of progressive legislation and children caught up in the governments social service system and foster homes would get better care and more compassion at the SPCA.
Slightly saucy, yes, and it earned Locke a phone call from the premier, which became grist for another column by Locke.
One of Mr. Williams common refrains is how disappointed he is in you, Locke wrote. Its personal and condescending right from the start. Calls on your mobile from the richest, most powerful man in the province are not the same as emails at your work. Journalists dont call him at home to abuse him. Journalism is done in a free media. Thats where the discussion should take place. Anything else is intimidation and it sets a bad public tone.
The Globe and Mail has also been getting calls from the premier, or perhaps his people.
Remember that controversial letter to the editor that appeared February 9 in The Advertiser, by Grand Falls-Windsor traitor lawyer Mark Griffin and the February 19 column in The Globe and Mail about that letter, written by Konrad Yakabuski? On June 19, the Globe ran a clarification in its Report on Business section. This is the full body of that clarification:
A column entitled It must be asked: Did Danny have a power play? published on page B2 of the Feb. 19, 2009, edition of The Globe and Mail contained statements referring to the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams, and the expropriation of assets formerly used in the operation of a mill by AbitibiBowater Inc. in the town of Grand Falls-Windsor. It was not the intention of the column to make statements of fact regarding the motives and intent of Mr. Williams in the matter. The Globe and Mail regrets any misunderstanding.
In addition, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not established a task force for the specific purpose of finding ways to prevent the closing of the AbitibiBowater Inc. mill, and power from hydroelectric assets formerly used at the mill have not been promised by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to Vale Inco, as was proposed in the article.
This may seem significant, but its not. Not at all. A clarification is a far cry from an apology and retraction or even a correction, and would suggest that The Globe published it just to get the provincial government off their backs. You will note there is no apology in here, simply regret for any misunderstanding, which could be interpreted a number of ways. The clarification appeared exactly four months after the original column appeared, far too long for it to be an error of fact. This would suggest the clarification was the result of prolonged discussions. I asked The Globe to talk about the back-and-forth that preceded this, but they declined comment.
An enterprising reporter might do well to submit an information request, asking how much money the government spends on legal fees in cases like this.
In the context of recent events, a correction that appeared in The Telegram In February of 2008 now seems to have new significance. You can read about that correction in the Labradore blog. In my view, The Telegram shouldnt have corrected themselves they had it right, based on the quotes, and should have stuck by the article. I wonder if they ran it just to shake off the poodle that was gnawing on its leg?
The premiers disappointed calls are not limited to media. Over the weekend, I spoke with a private citizen who, some time ago, wrote a letter of complaint to Danny. He, too, received an angry call from the premier. Ill have more on that in my next entry.