Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt writes:

To Eric Beecher:

Eric,
I can’t off-hand recall a single thing Crikey has written about me that
wasn’t marred by bile, revenge-seeking or inaccuracy, other than on the
occasions you’ve grudgingly praised me for criticising the Howard
Government, which just outranks me in your apparent pantheon of
hate-idols.

But your last two references to me were both false
and especially defamatory, and require from you an immediate retraction
and apology. The last, in particular, about me having “always received
briefings (by Warren Truss and Jackie Kelly) by fax on issues that the
govt knew they would pick up,” and of then doing media interviews to
give “answers (that) are consistent with someone who has received a
briefing from sources close to the Govt” is false in every particular.

To my knowledge I’ve never spoken to Truss, Kelly or their employees,
nor received anything from either, by fax, email, letter or carrier
pigeon. Nor are any members of the Government or their staff in the
habit of providing me with briefings in the way you describe, although
two Ministers – Andrews and Santoro – have unfortunately included me on
their junk-email mailing list for their general press releases, not one
of which I’ve read or remarked upon.

I write precisely what I think,
not what anyone tells me to think – whether proprietor or politician.
Ask the pompous Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, for instance, which
journalist is most likely to repeat his silly pronouncements on global
warming – Matt Price or me?

I note that in sliming me, you
relied purely on the evidence of someone calling themselves
“anonymous,” and did not seek to check with me the facts of the matter.
You recklessly published anonymous, spiteful and clearly defamatory
gossip.

Likewise, you published (David) Williamson’s scurrilous and
paranoid suggestion that I was briefed by John Howard’s office to
attack him over his preposterous article in The Bulletin, as if the
article wasn’t so ludicrous as to be a gimme for any columnist with an
eye for the pretentious and tendentious. Another fact: I have not
spoken to any member of Howard’s office for nearly two months, nor did
I discuss Williamson’s article with any Liberal politician or their
staffers before writing it. Indeed, in the past month, and probably
longer, I can recall speaking to just one member of one minister’s
staff, and that was in order to seek an answer to a specific question.

When
you took over Crikey, you promised to lift its deplorably low
standards. Clearly you have failed. If you, Eric, have any honour and
any commitment to the basic tenets of good journalism, you will
apologise for having printed allegations about me which were:

  • defamatory
  • false
  • based on one anonymous source
  • unchecked
  • preposterous, and
  • clearly malicious.

As a then colleague, I know you didn’t behave like this when you worked
for Rupert Murdoch. It’s telling that you do so now that you are the
publisher yourself.

Simply running this email as an answer to
your smears is no answer at all. The damage has been done, and done
recklessly and with your publication’s customary malice. I’d like you
to now apologise for it, and retract every element of your baseless
claims.

Eric Beecher replies:
David Williamson made his claims, an anonymous Crikey reader made her
(or his) claims, and now Andrew Bolt has responded – and Crikey has
published all of them. I accept Andrew Bolt’s refutation of the claims,
and apologise if he feels wounded. But I completely reject his
suggestion of malice; what was published was a legitimate debate,
initiated by a proposition put forward by David Williamson about the
way he believes Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman may receive and distil
information. A debate, just like almost every column written by Andrew
Bolt; a debate about how politics and journalism may (or may not)
intersect.

As for Andrew Bolt’s statement that “as a then
colleague, I know you didn’t behave like this when you worked for
Rupert Murdoch. It’s telling that you do so now that you are the
publisher yourself,” I would simply say that I found so many of the
things I was expected to do as an editor working for Rupert Murdoch so
unpalatable and unprofessional that I resigned publicly and stated that
I found my position untenable.