Lee stumbles but TV3 go too far

by Jake Quinn

In tonight’s TV3 coverage of the Mt Albert By-election Duncan Garner covered the fact that National’s Melissa Lee has chosen not to attend a meet the candidates debate. Melissa Lee’s excuse for not attending was weak and quite obviously disingenuous. She suggested “she had already made plans” and couldn’t make the meeting, and that she had only received the invitation “late yesterday afternoon”.  

In a political campaign, your day’s schedule is never totally confirmed and can and should change by the hour. Whatever the media and voter attention is on, you attend. It’s that simple. Therefore, the decision by National to have Lee not attend the meeting was deliberate; she is being gagged on the Auckland Super City (the meetings topic) because she quite simply doesn’t know her stuff and is likely to embarrass the government at a time when they, after taking a week of punishment, are highly sensitive and risk averse – especially on this issue.

However, Duncan Garner’s decision to run footage of Lee repeatedly failing to string sentences together was just cruel and uncalled for. I have witnessed politicians say to their interviewer “I’ll just start that one again, can you edit it out” after fumbling an answer. Reporters normally don’t have a problem with it, unless they are trying to destroy their interviewee, which seems to be the case here.