CALGARY – A one-time senior editor at Calgary’s largest newspaper says he had concerns with a rebuttal to a column that was critical of a former TV reporter running for office and rejected publishing it.
Two separate interviews with Gord Smiley, former assistant managing editor with the Calgary Herald, were read into the record Tuesday at the defamation trial that pits former NBC war correspondent Arthur Kent against Postmedia, which includes the Calgary Herald, and columnist Don Martin.
Kent alleges he was defamed during his unsuccessful campaign to win a seat in Calgary for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2008 Alberta election. He lost the race after a column by Martin ran under the headline “Alberta’s ‘Scud Stud’ a ‘Dud’ on Campaign Trail” — a reference to the nickname Kent got covering the Gulf War.
Kent wrote a rebuttal under the headline “A Tool for Love” that suggested Martin was simply doing the bidding of the Tory party and senior members including Rod Love.
Smiley said in a 2009 interview with Kent’s legal team that he informed Kent over the phone that the rebuttal wouldn’t run.
“It was my opinion that we weren’t going to publish this column. First of all because it was highly critical of Don Martin and we didn’t want to publish the column because of that reason,” said Smiley.
“And also it made several references, that I was uncomfortable with — against Alan Hallman, Rod Love, (former premier) Ralph Klein, Lee Richardson — and I didn’t want to publish the column.”
Hallman and Love were later identified by Martin as two of the three anonymous sources he used in his column, which described Kent as a candidate who failed to toe the party line and was difficult to deal with. The article said Kent was not co-operating with the party and a number of key campaign members were threatening to quit.
Kent’s campaign lawyer, Kristine Robidoux, has testified that she shared private emails with Martin that included complaints between the Tory campaign chairman and party brass about Kent. She said she regretted her decision almost immediately and the resulting article made her “physically ill.”
Smiley said he did tell Kent he could write a column on another subject, but there was no guarantee that it would be published either.
He said there was no thought given to any kind of followup on the Martin story.
Kent took the witness stand late Tuesday afternoon and will be up again Wednesday morning.
He told the court about his numerous awards, including two Emmys; his experiences as a war correspondent; and how he has rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, including attending a gala with “Sex and the City” actress Kim Cattrall.
“I was most pleased to rescue her from a group of businessmen who surrounded her. Fortunately she recognized me,” Kent said with a smile.
He recounted walking into the gala with Cattrall and columnist Barbara Amiel.
“Kim told Barbara she loved her dress and she said you’re not looking too bad yourself, sweetheart.”
Kent was asked about the origin of his “Scud Stud” nickname.
“I’ve had at least one that has stuck with me for very many years,” he said.
Court was shown one of Kent’s earliest reports from Saudi Arabia — which cut into an NFL game — where the announcers praised his coverage of the Gulf War.
“When we had a built-in audience of 55 million,” he said. “We were eager to make it work.”
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