If the makers of At Home With Julia are looking for a sequel, then the last few days would provide plenty of illuminating material for a comedy called At Home With The Bolts. The first issue causing grief was the revelation by Anne Summers in The Monthly that Andrew Bolt was previously engaged to a former work colleague at The Age. The woman in question has even gone so far as to provide The Monthly with a statutory declaration and showed copies of letters from Bolt. Bolt has quite clearly accused both her and Anne Summers of concocting this fact, but The Monthly’s editor Ben Naparstek told The Australian today: "I have seen letters from Andrew that he wrote to her saying that he was excited to be her fiancé." Oh dear. Either the mysterious fiancee is an elaborate hoaxer and document forger or Bolt is being loose with the truth. The other point of tension in the Bolt household has been over what Bolt claims was a "despicable defamation" of his wife by The Monthly. Jonathan Green, editor of The Drum, last week carried this extract from the 6700-word Summers profile on Aunty’s opinion and commentary site. The most contentious point related to the publication of some appallingly homophobic comments about David Marr on Bolt's blog the morning after Marr famously turned his back and started reading the paper whilst Bolt launched into one of his many climate change rants on Insiders. You only imagine the discussions inside the Bolt bunker in Malvern which led to Green first publishing and then later withdrawing the following two paragraphs, the first being from the Summers profile:
Marr accepted Bolt’s apology and his assurance he had not seen the posts. What Bolt did not disclose was that the person who was moderating the blog and past whom these comments had "snuck" was his wife, Sally Morrell. "It was an official arrangement for his wife to moderate his blog," Phil Gardner, editor-in-chief of the Herald & Weekly Times, told me. That arrangement ended about a year ago, he said, and Bolt’s blog is now moderated in-house at the Herald Sun. (Editor's Note: Andrew Bolt in correspondence on Friday afternoon disputes this point. He says that Sally Morrell was one of several moderators of the blog and far from the most involved. Bolt insists that none of the posts reported here were moderated by her. Documents provided by him suggest that in fact she was not moderating the blog at the times in question and that the posts in question were published by either Bolt or another staffer. He says: "I did much of the moderating myself on those days and through sheer carelessness through pressure of work, I almost certainly let those through myself. Sally helped on the blog for just a couple of hours a day and did not work the particular shift on which those mistakes were made. I deeply regret my error and am horrified that Sally is now given the blame.")
Whilst Bolt might have been mending fences with his wife, this line of defence clearly causes a major problem with Marr. After all, how can Bolt simultaneously admit to Green that he let those comments through, when he denied it directly to Marr and his Herald Sun editor, Simon Pristel, at the time. Marr today made the following comments to Crikey:
"In my view, those horrible posts were Andrew Bolt's revenge after I made a fool of him on Insiders that morning. I don't feel defamed by those posts but here is Andrew Bolt ridiculously hyper-ventilating when this is meant to be about my hurt feelings. "I am absolutely on the side of accuracy in this saga and believe Andrew has got himself into all sorts of trouble because he lied to his employer and he lied to me about who let through those posts. "Bolt simply cannot maintain three separate truths on this matter. Was it him? Was it his wife? Or was it this mystery other party who is "so decent" they cannot be named? "He needs to address the error. He admitted to Jonathan Green that it was probably him, so why did he deny it to me and his editor, Simon Pristel, at the time?"
Meanwhile, the rest of Bolt’s world is also under pressure. Mark Day has today predicted that his six-figure MTR gig is about to end because Gina Rinehart and John Singleton have not been able to get a bid together to buy any of Fairfax’s radio assets. The Bolt Report also produced woeful ratings yesterday and the prospect that News Corp will fund an expensive appeal against the Federal Court judgment is looking less likely by the day, especially now that the original columns are carrying the following in bold:
"The below article was the subject of a decision of the Federal Court on 28 September 2011 that it contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). To view a full copy of the Federal Court decision please access the following link: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2011/1103.html."
News Ltd can’t even get its facts right on this. The Australian’s Media section editor Stephen Brook today claimed "the Herald Sun has until Wednesday to decide if it will appeal". Truth be known, they have 21 days to appeal after orders are made, but orders are not yet made although some lively revelations are expected in court over the coming days. Facts are important in journalism and for all Bolt’s fury, Summers and The Monthly are not making any concessions on the accuracy of what they’ve published. The same can’t be said for what Marr says about Bolt’s approach to telling the truth. As for Morrell’s attitude, one can only imagine.