Peter Blunden blunders with judges

Judges are a fussy lot, as Herald Sun
journalist Andrew Bolt no doubt discovered when he was sued by Jelena
Popovic. However, that didn’t stop his editor-in-chief, Peter Blunden
from making some questionable comments about the judges involved in the
case while on a panel during Friday’s annual Melbourne Press Club
conference.

This morning on ABC radio, host and panel moderator
Jon Faine read out an explanation to his audience, presumably at the
request of several Supreme Court judges, clarifying Blunden’s comments,
which were broadcast live during Faine’s Friday Morning Show.

Blunden said that Popovic, after winning her case against Bolt in the High Court, threw a party and celebrated with the judges.

In
fact, none of the judges who were in any way involved in the case were
invited nor went to the party, although some other friends of Popovic
(and her barrister husband Tony Trood) who are judges were at the party.

Understandable
the judges were quite miffed by Blunden’s comments and while Faine has
cleared the slate as far as the ABC was concerned, it will be
interesting to see what Blunden and the Herald and Weekly Times do to
make amends?

Or will the judges simply sue Blunden?

CRIKEY: If you missed the broadcast you can listen to it on the ABC website.

Blunden blasts Faine and Crikey over judges party

Herald Sun editor in chief Peter Blunden writes:

Dear Crikey,

I
find it extraordinary that neither Jon Faine nor Crikey attempted to
contact me before condemning my comments (Nov 2 sealed section) about
some members of the legal profession at last Friday’s journalism
confererence.

I merely pointed out that, according to The Sunday Age, deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic celebrated her defamation payout from the Herald Sun with 150 guests. The paper reported that “judges, beaks and senior barristers” were among the guests.

Ms
Popovic has not denied this, and we have established that a party did
take place. In my view, it is more appropriate for Faine and Crikey to
ask the obvious question: which judges found it appropriate to
celebrate the verdict of one of their peers? Without wishing this to
sound like sour grapes, I’m concerned that any member of the judiciary
could attend such a party.

Contrary to both Faine and Crikey, at
no point did I imply that any judges directly associated with the case
attended the function. I’m sure they would not have done so. But it is
valid to express concern that any judge would attend.

I do NOT
resile from my comments, and resent the ABC “apologising” on my behalf
for comments I didn’t make, and without even calling me.

Peter Blunden
Editor in Chief
Herald Sun

CRIKEY: Faine actually did a similar think to Crikey two weeks ago when he effectively apologised on our behalf to former Age editor in chief Michael Gawenda, as you can see from this transcript.

However, Blunden is clearly taking himself way too seriously. The Herald Sun
refused to give an inch to Popovic over the offending Andrew Bolt
column and fought it all the way to the High Court. Having not lost her
house and superannuation, Popovic was entitled to have a party and also
invite her legal friends. So what.

The Judges who complained to
Faine were probably also too sensitive as Blunden did not specifically
say that the judges who heard the case were at the party. Copping a $2
million defamation hit, including legals, is clearly still a sensitive
matter for Rupert’s Melbourne outpost.

You can listen to the controversial editor’s debate last Friday here.