A few questions about the Tony Veitch furore:
So he “deeply regrets” what happened. But what does he regret most – the fact that he assaulted his former partner, or the fact that the world now knows about it? Much of his statement of contrition – “I was working seven days a week … two stressful jobs … emotionally and physically exhausted” – read like a carefully pitched plea for sympathy.
Can we assume, given that none of the Dominion Post’s claims about the assault have been denied and no writs issued (and that the Dom Post would have taken great care to get its facts right in the first place), that what has been reported is substantively correct?
Which is more repugnant: the fact that Veitch assaulted his former partner (kicking her and breaking her back in four places, according to the Dom Post), or that he then apparently tried to buy her silence with a payout, estimates of which range from $100,000 to $170,000?
If the police don’t (or can’t) prosecute Veitch, doesn’t that send a message that people with lots of money can simply pay to escape the consequences of their criminal behaviour? How corrosive is that to public confidence in the justice system?
Did anyone at a senior level in Television New Zealand know about Veitch’s attack on his former partner before the Dom Post broke the story? If so, who? And how long ago?
If it’s established that senior people in TVNZ did know, and took no action against him, what does that say about the integrity of this state-owned organisation? And if it’s established that TVNZ knew but took action against Veitch only after the public furore erupted, wouldn’t that expose them as utter hypocrites, tacitly condoning his behaviour until forced by public opinion to take a moral position?
How uncomfortable did Veitch’s on-air colleagues at TVNZ feel at having to pretend it was business as usual on Monday and Tuesday nights, and how realistic would it be to expect them to keep up the chummy on-screen banter if Veitch was allowed back on air?
Media intrusion in the private lives of public figures is a grey area ethically – but was this a case where exposure of a public figure’s private behaviour was wholly justified? Veitch is a high-profile employee of a public organisation. He’s also paid a very substantial sum of money ($200,000 by TVNZ, according to the Dom Post, but that doesn’t include his substantial earnings from other activities). Can an argument be made that the tradeoff for people who are paid such lavish sums, and who enjoy the status and lifestyle that goes with their celebrity profile, is that their lives will be held up to scrutiny? When a person’s high status and income depends on public recognition and endorsement, is the public entitled to know what that person is really like? (It shouldn’t take a lot of guesswork to conclude that I think the answer is yes.)
Finally, did One News reporter Lisa Owen single-handedly do her utmost to uphold public confidence in the integrity of TVNZ, or at least the independence of its journalism, by courageously reporting that her bosses were running for cover? Owen has never been my favourite reporter, but I couldn’t fault her gutsy performance when the pressure was on.
[Footnote: For the benefit of overseas readers who may be mystified by all this, Tony Veitch is a celebrity broadcaster who presents the sports news on the state-owned One network and hosts a jockstrappy sports quiz on the same channel. The Dominion Post reported last Monday that two years ago he assaulted his ex-partner so severely that she spent months off work and for a time was confined to a wheelchair. Veitch has now been taken off the air both by TVNZ and by Radio Sport, where he presented a breakfast programme.]