An interesting choice of words by Andrew Bolt yesterday [my emphasis added]:

And I’m not surprised by women turning on Rann, after his treatment of Michelle Chantelois, his former lover

Not “alleged former lover”; not “the woman who claims to be his former lover”. An assertion of fact. Never mind Rann’s outright denial that his relationship with Chantelois was a sexual one. Never mind that Rann initiated legal action against Seven and New Idea for publishing claims that the relationship was sexual. And never mind that even esteemed political commentators such as the man they call the Poison Dwarf still refer to Chantelois as “the parliamentary barmaid who claims [Rann] bedded her”.

Why did Bolt write as though the claim is established fact? It seems to me there are two possibilities.

One is that it’s a subtle attempt to smear Rann. There are some reasons that a conservative political pundit might think they could get away with a cheap attempt to damage Rann’s reputation. Rann is campaigning for re-election now – launching more legal action is going to be a distraction and, potentially, a bad look with the voters. The smearer could paint themselves as a martyr to the causes of free speech and open scrutiny of political candidates. And there’s a grey area in terms of the facts, because Seven’s apology did not retract the claim of a sexual relationship. I can see how a savvy partisan commentator might think it’s a win-win situation – either Rann reacts to the smear and creates a new controversy in the midst of a campaign, or it’s ignored and the statement is left to stand uncontested.

Is that what Andrew Bolt did? I have no idea, because the other possibility is that he simply chose his words carelessly. The Rann post was published just before 9am yesterday, just as Bolt was preparing for his riveting liveblog of Kevin Rudd’s appearance on Insiders (which, based on the comments, seems to have saved many of his readers from needing to actually view Rudd’s performance to form an impression of it). Perhaps, in his haste to get the post published and a latte brewed before Barrie started grilling softly interviewing Kevin, Bolt left out the crucial word “alleged” from the Rann post. In that case, one would hope he will realise his mistake and tidy up the language – not to mention taking care to avoid the same mistake in future.

UPDATE: Andrew Bolt has updated his post:


Apologies. I should note that Ran rejects the allegations:

I have not had sex with her,” he said.

Thus lending support to the Latte Hypothesis.

(NB: I’ve also removed a sentence fragment that I’d left behind while writing and editing the original post.)