Rachel MacGregor's resignation 'took the shine off her', Colin Craig says
Former Conservative leader Colin Craig says his view of his former press secretary changed when she resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment.
"I think the shine went off the wonderful at that point," Craig told the High Court at Auckland.
Craig on Monday was cross-examined by lawyers for Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams, who has accused him of defamation.
In court, Craig read a poem he wrote to Rachel MacGregor about how wonderful she was, before describing her as "eccentric and quirky".
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"She was into singing jazz, for example, which wasn't the most mainstream music people are into," he said.
"I would describe her as a slightly quirky person. Obviously my view of her changed once the allegations ... actually I think after the Thursday morning when she resigned."
He said MacGregor had "two versions of events".
The first version was a good relationship where he loaned her money and paid for her to go to the day spa, Craig said.
"She has another version of events, of me, which is dodgy and disgusting and all those other things. I believe her first version of events is the right one."
He admitted that another poem he wrote MacGregor about her beauty was "inappropriate" because she had already implemented "boundaries" in their relationship.
He also confirmed he had asked her not to wear low-cut tops to work.
Others had raised the issue of her work attire with him, he said.
"The problem with [the top] is people, obviously males in particular, are likely to look at that. I didn't think that was good in a working relationship."
'THAT WAS HISTORY FOR ME'
Earlier, Craig criticised Williams for not asking for proof of his alleged 'sext' messages.
Craig said he knew he was "history" with his party when he was unable to defend allegations of sexual harassment made by his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.
Williams' defamation claims stem from a 2015 press conference, in which Craig publicly called Williams a liar and accused him of being part of the "Dirty Politics brigade".
The claims were repeated in a booklet which Craig spent nearly $300,000 to publish and distribute across the country.
Craig was responding to information Williams had presented to Conservative Party board members about his alleged sexual harassment of his then-press secretary Rachel MacGregor.
Williams claims Craig's statements damaged his reputation.
Craig denies the sexual harassment allegations.
On Monday Craig told the court that a confidentiality agreement signed between himself and MacGregor prevented him from addressing the board's concerns, brought to them by Williams.
"I was told in no uncertain terms [by Craig's lawyers], no I cannot go back to the board and answer their questions," he said.
"I realised in doing that, that was history for me. The answer that I had to give them was 'I'm sorry, I'm still bound by confidentiality'. I knew what that would mean ... it was problematic."
He believed Williams had schemed with former board member John Stringer and WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater to publicise MacGregor's claims of sexual harassment, but said Williams "did not have grounds" for those allegations.
"He hadn't done any double checking and I think he should have. Had he done that, had he said 'OK Rachel I'm prepared to act on this if you provide me with a sext message', this would have stopped a lot of this going downstream."
Giving evidence on Friday, Craig told the court that a forensic examination of hundreds of messages on his phone proved he had never sent a 'sex message' to MacGregor.
Craig defended his reasoning behind publishing an anonymous interview with himself in a leaflet he distributed to 1.6 million homes.
The leaflet, entitled Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas, contains an interview with a so-called "Mr X", which Craig later admitted was himself.
During cross examination at the High Court at Auckland on Monday, Williams' lawyer Peter McKnight put to Craig that the interview was "reckless and dishonest".
Craig disputed that, saying he had paraphrased people like political strategist Simon Lusk and WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.
"I guess some people would view a nom de plume as dishonest ... it's a literary device," Craig said.
"I was taking what other people had said to me in conversation, their view points. I didn't necessarily agree with all of the view points that were being put forward in this interview.
"What I'm trying to do here is express opinions people have about Dirty Politics. Some of them I don't agree with."
McKnight asked him about a sentence where "Mr X" says "the media love [Craig]".
"Do you want to be loved?" McKnight asked him.
"I'd like the media to show me a little more love in their reporting," Craig replied.
McKnight then asked about "Mr X" describing Craig as being "freakish under pressure".
Craig said that was a phrase his friend used to describe him.
"Are you freakish?" McKnight asked.
"I don't know if I'd go that far," Craig said.
INTERVIEW WITH MR X, AS PUBLISHED IN THE BOOKLET
Interviewer: "Colin Craig is not in office."
Mr X: "Well no but he nearly ... got there last time. He gets votes and the media love him so that qualifies him to be a target."
Interviewer: "Craig says he has been getting pretty positive feedback from supporters."
Mr X: "Yeah well maybe he says that but ... don't forget they are mostly a bunch of bigots, they will dump him, just wait and see. Most media have already written him and the party off."
Interviewer: "So there is no way back for Craig after this?"
Mr X: "No chance ... well OK there is a chance but only because he is freakish under pressure and he seems to be largely unphased [sic] by this whole thing."