The mysterious fourth story
I confess, I'm intrigued about this whole wrinkle at the Oliphant inquiry yesterday, when Mulroney explained how, in 2003, he tried to negotiate with The Globe and Mail on its plans to reveal that the former prime minister had indeed taken money from Karl-Heinz Schreiber.
Apparently, Mulroney dangled a fourth element before the Globe, offering some incendiary information which he now says was never published. (Note that the former PM was far more active, personally, in this negotiation than he was in his dealings with Revenue Canada. That discussion, resulting in a 50-per-cent cut in his taxes, was reportedly conducted anonymously, through his lawyer.)
The information Mulroney was offering didn't pan out, Globe editor Edward Greenspon noted yesterday.
“I told Mr. Mulroney that if the story he was offering was true and verifiable that it would be in his interest to tell it to me in any case and that we would pursue it. He did and we did. Unfortunately, it was not verifiable,” Greenspon says in a letter to the commission counsel.
How unusual is it for politicos to offer journalists better stories in exchange for silence on more damaging ones? Quite unusual, though I know that a former communications director for the current prime minister tried this at least once in the past few years. It's a bad policy/tactic and doesn't generally work. It's also a bit outrageous and desperate.
*** Update: Guy Pratte, Mr. Mulroney's lawyer, put on the record today that his client's interventions with The Globe were all done in the interest of his family.
Nonetheless, good for The Globe in resisting the attempt at manipulation, if that's what it was.
But what some of us will remember is the unusual way in which The Globe rolled out its three-part series in the fall of 2003. The first story in the series was not about Mulroney taking the cash -- the pivotal fact in this whole inquiry. (Indeed, it's the pivotal fact in this basic question: Why did the Canadian government give Mulroney $2-million-plus for a libel settlement in 1997?)
The Globe's series-opener was about journalist Stevie Cameron, Mulroney's nemesis, and whether she was a secret RCMP informant. Given Mulroney's continuing antagonism toward Cameron, oft-displayed while he's been on the stand these past two weeks, he at least must have been mollified back in 2003 that this was the way The Globe decided to kick off its expose on the explosive details of the whole Mulroney-Schreiber business. He didn't get his fourth story. But the first one must have made him happy.
*** Yet another update: Over here, at the Mulroney media room, the team isn't taking the Greenspon letter lying down, accusing The Globe of suppressing legitimate information. So clearly the story's not over.