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Biased, bullying interview that ripped politician to shreds and was hailed by liberal MSM was a public shaming too far

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
Biased, bullying interview that ripped politician to shreds and was hailed by liberal MSM was a public shaming too far
The humiliation of a former star of NZ politics has gone viral as a hostile TV presenter scorned his attempts to reply to her questions and treated him like a child. Shamefully, this is what now passes as a political interview.

A politician who has just suffered an electoral drubbing, lost his seat, his future and his direction in life is someone many media experts would quickly identify as low-hanging fruit, easy pickings, ripe for a straightforward takedown.

But for the liberal mainstream media to celebrate the weekend’s Tova O’Brien interview with freshly defeated Advance New Zealand politician Jami-Lee Ross as some sort of modern-day Frost/Nixon battle is typical of the infantile one-upmanship that characterises much of what attempts to pass as insightful political journalism on TV.

With video of the encounter having gone viral, the liberals who brook no opinion unless it aligns perfectly with their own obviously went to town.

Ross was once a rising star in Kiwi politics, and the youngest MP in the country at the time of his first election in 2011. However, he fell out with his party’s leader after accusing him of corruption – not an advisable career move for a young politician – and sat as an independent before hooking up with novice whackjob and blues musician Billy Te Kahika Jr. earlier this year to launch Advance New Zealand just in time for the general election.

Thanks to pushing the usual loony conflation of Covid-19 and 5G communication conspiracies, the party of which they were co-leaders bombed miserably at the weekend’s polls, winning less than one percent of the vote, and putting an end, for now, to Ross’s spell in frontline politics.

So there are some good questions to ask and certainly some answers that viewers would like to hear. But to launch into a guest by repeating an off-air admission that he’s a “loser” is not the way to conduct any sort of interview, no matter how good it later looks on YouTube.

Because the openly hostile, insulting and condescending approach – “Your political career is in tatters, do you have any regrets?” – meant that at the completion of the interview, lasting less than five minutes, and now viewed around 10 million times worldwide, we are no closer than we were at the outset to understanding any of the motivations or missteps taken by Ross which led to the dramatic collapse of his once promising political career.

Despite the adoration on social media for O’Brien – “I don’t know her, but I love this woman and her power” and “an absolute masterclass in interviewing a politician” – this was not great journalism or even great television. 

As an interview, it told us nothing, other than Tova O’Brien is not a fan of Jami-Lee Ross, that she is puzzled by those decisions which led to his political demise – “You sold your soul for political ambition” – and would really have preferred to be interviewing his co-leader, Te Kahika, so she could be seen as clever for mocking his more radical opinions.

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For many mainstream television anchors working in the Western media, it’s being able to express that open condescension and contempt for an interview subject that now passes for journalism. No longer content to play the detached inquisitor, listening carefully to proffered replies and unwinding the truth like a big ball of string, the contemporary interviewer now wants to simply dominate the interviewee and belittle them in front of an adoring audience. 

That means setting up a narrative with the producers beforehand that will provide an outcome that leaves the audience in awe of the bravado of the host, their daring in ‘speaking truth to power’ – how I detest the implicit self-righteousness in that phrase – and the guest a forlorn and pitiful wreck somehow finally held to account for real or imagined transgressions.

That is entertainment. It is not journalism by a long shot, let’s at least agree on that. So to watch Tova O’Brien bully and berate a softly-spoken and clearly deflated Jami-Lee Ross as he gamely tried to play ball for the purposes of her current affairs show was not an edifying experience. 

O’Brien should be ashamed of her behaviour, not basking in the glow of admiration from a clueless clutch of liberal media fools.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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