Media release: Dirty PR exposed in Whale Oil defamation trial

3 Mar, 2021 | Media Release

Three public health advocates are relieved that their long-standing Whale Oil defamation trial against Cameron Slater, Carrick Graham, Katherine Rich and the Food and Grocery Council has finally concluded and they are pleased that the truth has come out. Shane Bradbrook, Doug Sellman and Boyd Swinburn settled their case at the High Court today, just as the evidence was being heard. Graham’s unreserved apology for his part in defaming the three health professionals was read out in court (see below). The settlements from Graham, Rich and the Food and Grocery Council included confidential payments to the plaintiffs.

 “It’s a good feeling to have it acknowledged we were actually defamed, and then apologised to for it,” said Mr Bradbrook. “To be accused of being a fraudster and associated with terrorism, as I was by the dirty PR campaign orchestrated by Graham, at a time that he was working for big tobacco, and published by Cameron Slater was a terrible burden on me and my whānau for too many years. It’s a great feeling to have a burden like that off your back”.

Graham admitted his statements were ‘untrue, unfair, offensive, insulting and defamatory’ and that they were part of his business approach to ‘advance the interests of industry’. Graham was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for his PR efforts by big tobacco and the Food and Grocery Council, which is a lobby group for processed food, alcohol and tobacco industries. The case was filed in June 2016 following the publication of Nicky Hager’s Book Dirty Politics which exposed the commercial links between industry, PR tactics and the defamatory blogs on Slater’s now-defunct Whale Oil website.

“The exposure of these dirty PR tactics clears the way for all our colleagues who are advocating for strong public health policies to do so without fear of being abused and defamed in the media,” said Professor Sellman. “We didn’t fight this historic case all these years just for ourselves – there are bigger principles at stake here.”

Professor Swinburn said, “We now know for sure that the dirty tactics employed overseas by the tobacco, alcohol and processed food industries, happen in New Zealand. These industries have successfully stalled public health policies for far too long in this country because they have deep pockets, powerful lobbying influence over government and very few scruples. I hope that uncovering these connections between big money, underhand PR and defamatory blogs is a wake-up call and we can begin to see better public health policies from Government.”

Professor Doug Sellman
National Addiction Centre
University of Otago, Christchurch
Mobile: 0274-344456

Shane Te Kawenata Bradbrook
Public health advocate
Former Director of Te Reo Marama
Mobile: 0274 728448

Professor Boyd Swinburn
School of Population Health
Mobile: 022167 9636

Apology from Carrick Graham to Doug Sellman, Boyd Swinburn and Shane Bradbrook

I wish to apologise publicly for the untrue statements I have made about the plaintiffs, Professor Doug Sellman, Professor Boyd Swinburn and Mr Shane Bradbrook.

I made various defamatory comments about the plaintiffs, using various pseudonyms, on blogs published on Mr Slater’s Whale Oil website.  I also encouraged, inspired or contributed to the text of certain defamatory blog posts about the plaintiffs that were published on Whale Oil, including by making payments to Cameron Slater.  I did so as part of my business and in order to advance the interests of industry.

I apologise for all hurt and harm caused to the plaintiffs by those blog posts and comments.

I am now aware that a number of statements I made about the plaintiffs were untrue, unfair, offensive, insulting and defamatory.

I acknowledge that the plaintiffs’ work on the harms of tobacco, alcohol, and processed foods and beverages, was undertaken responsibly and in the public interest.

I deeply regret making the comments, and my involvement in the blog posts and comments.

I sincerely and unreservedly apologise to Professor Sellman, Professor Swinburn and Mr Bradbrook and have agreed to make a payment to them.  The plaintiffs have accepted my apology and so have agreed to end their legal proceedings against me.

3 March 2021

Carrick Graham

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