It was a bizarre, confused and testy morning in court Thursday, as blogger and failed political aspirant Brad Cabana cross-examined former cabinet minister Terry French in excruciating detail.
With French on the stand, Cabana spent most of the morning teasing apart the meaning of the words French had used to insult him five years ago on a VOCM call-in show.
At one point, Cabana asked French what the precise definition of a “political scumbag” was.
“You were a political scumbag,” French replied.
“What else can I tell you? I don’t know how I can lay it out to you any more. I’ve kept repeating what I called you. I’m not denying I called you it. I did. I really did.”
A short while later, Cabana wanted to move on to “an absolute waste of space,” another term French used to describe Cabana.
“Now, when you said that, what were you referring to by the word ‘absolute’?” Cabana asked.
“Total,” French replied. “You could’ve put total waste of space politically, but I used absolute.”
Cabana followed up, “And then, what did you refer to when you said the words ‘waste of space’? What were you intending the purpose of those words to be?”
“You were a waste of space in the political debate,” French said. “I think they’re pretty clear, personally. A waste of space. You’re a waste of space in the political debate. You’re involved in it, obviously. But you’re only a waste of space. A waste of whatever. A waste of being involved.”
At one point, Cabana was ready to read definitions of the word “prostitute” from the dictionary, before Justice Robert Stack put a stop to it. Cabana is suing French for defamation, along with former premier Kathy Dunderdale and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Cabana is representing himself at the trial, and during court proceedings he was chastised several times by Stack for conducting himself inappropriately.
At the core of the matter is the VOCM “Backtalk” phone call that French made after Cabana accused the minister of being corrupt in an earlier phone call to the radio station.
Aside from the lengthy, prickly exchanges over semantics, Cabana’s questioning of French was meandering, covering everything from the weeks before French retired from politics to the House of Assembly constituency spending scandal many years earlier.
Cabana declined an interview request to explain his line of argument, but he seems to be attempting to establish that French’s political attack was uncalled for, and harsher than other comparable episodes in French’s political career.