CALGARY – A writer who penned a column critical of Arthur Kent during an Alberta election campaign acknowledged during testimony Monday that a paragraph in his article was not true.
Don Martin, Postmedia and the National Post, are being sued for defamation by Kent, who became known as the Scud Stud for his Gulf War reporting on U.S. television. Martin’s 2008 column was headlined “‘Scud Stud’ a ‘Dud’ on the Election Trail.”
While cross-examining Martin on Monday, Kent’s lawyer Michael Bates pointed to a paragraph that read: “Alberta Conservatives have bestowed problem candidate Arthur Kent with a less flattering designation as he noisily blusters his way through their reeling election campaign — the Dud Scud.”
“Isn’t it the reality that one person — that you say you can’t remember — told you that Arthur Kent was the Dud Stud? It’s one person isn’t it?” Bates asked.
“Could be,” Martin responded.
“Your article characterizes it as a large group of Albertans have bestowed him with that new name and that’s not true, is it?” Bates persisted.
“I’d write it differently today,” replied Martin.
“You’d write it differently today because as it sits in Exhibit 1 it’s not true, correct?” Bates asked.
“That paragraph is not true. Correct.”
Kent ran unsuccessfully for the Progressive Conservatives in 2008. Martin’s column portrayed him as an egocentric celebrity candidate who had thrown his own campaign off the rails by speaking out against his party and its leader. It used unnamed party sources and Martin admitted he didn’t contact Kent directly for comment.
Martin testified that there is a difference between a columnist and a reporter who must tell all sides of the story and ensure an article is fair and balanced.
“It can be written in a lot more colourful and creative way,” Martin testified. “Certainly you’ve got to maintain accuracy and you have to be aware of malice, but you do not have to give both sides.”
Martin said he got some of his information through Google searches, some parts came from articles written by other columnists and he used emails from campaign staff and party insiders.
“I did a lot more research than would be normal.”
He said he initially heard there were problems on the Kent campaign from lawyer Kristine Robidoux, who he referred to as a friend. She agreed to pass along emails detailing some of the concerns.
Martin said his interest grew after reading other columns outlining Kent’s criticism of Tory leader Ed Stelmach and the Progressive Conservative party.
“Campaigns are usually where candidates circle the wagons around their leader and this candidate seemed to be shooting inwards,” Martin said.
“Did you have any ill will toward Mr. Kent?” Postmedia lawyer Scott Watson asked.
“Absolutely not,” Martin replied.
Bates questioned how a reader would know Martin’s article, which appeared on a news page of the Calgary Herald, was an opinion piece. The Herald is part of the Postmedia network.
“There’s nothing that says opinion,” Bates suggested.
“There’s no way to say this — and I don’t want to sound egotistical — but I’m known as a guy who wrote an opinion column, and when you saw my name and face you assumed it was an opinion column,” said Martin, who is now a television host with CTV.
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