Writer tweets his festival no-show

NICOLA RUSSELL
Last updated 09:36 06/05/2012
Michael Hastings
NO SHOW: Michael Hastings, who was due to appear at the Auckland Writers festival next week.

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The Rolling Stone journalist who ended the career of US General Stanley McChrystal has started a war of words after pulling out of the Auckland Writers Festival.

Michael Hastings who was due to appear at the Auckland Writers festival next week tweeted yesterday that he was not attending the Auckland and Sydney festivals, because they had refused to pay his airfare.

"Wanted to. Festivals declined to cover cost of airfare for me," the tweet said.

But Auckland Writers Festival artistic director Anne O'Brien said they had paid for Hastings' airfare in February. The fare was split three ways among Hastings' New Zealand publisher and the two festivals.

O'Brien said she was told by Sydney Festival director Chip Rolley that Hastings reneged because of "media commitments".

"Yesterday I received, via the publisher here, a message from his UK agent advising that it was not going to work out for him to come to Australia and New Zealand because [an LA] television company had asked him to stay on longer and Rolling Stone had some other commitments they needed him to meet," said O'Brien.

She said Hastings' tweets most likely refer to a request received by the festival "several weeks ago" asking them to contribute to a $6000 cost to change Hastings' airfare.

"The publisher said he may need to fly in to Auckland a day late because of a television interview in LA, the cost of changing those fares would be $6000 and were we in a position to contribute to that."

O'Brien heard nothing more about Hastings' appearance until she was emailed on Friday.

On receiving the news on Friday she tried to contact Hastings and his UK publisher to no avail.

"There was a flurry and we all said we want to resolve this, what's going to happen, this is a nightmare. We heard from nobody. "

The team hoping to resolve the issue held off advising ticketholders, but a press release was sent out yesterday morning after tweets began circulating about the cancellation.

The panel events in which Hastings was to appear will proceed, with Toby Manhire replacing Hastings in the Getting the Story panel. His solo session has been cancelled.

Hastings rose to prominence for a story quoting McChrystal, then head of the US Afghanistan forces, making comments critical of US President Barack Obama. McChrystal was recalled to Washington and resigned.

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All ticketholders with individually purchased tickets for sessions in which Hastings was to appear will have the option of exchanging their tickets or claiming a refund.

- Sunday Star Times

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