Friday, November 09, 2007

Daily Telegraph Brands Kevin Rudd 'Gay'

12 Hours Later, Dirty Tricks Headline Wiped From Website

A few days ago, we mentioned that we were getting e-mail tips that the Sydney Daily Telegraph had a big 'scoop' on Kevin Rudd planned for its Friday front page. The rumours ran that Liberal dirt units had uncovered something allegedly dodgy about the way Kevin Rudd came to purchase his current home in 1994.

So here it is, Friday, and what's the big 'scoop' in the Daily Telegraph?

All we could find in the online edition at 1.20am was this incredible headline :

Kevin Rudd, John Howard's election rival, is 'gay'?

If true, it would certainly be a scoop indeed.

Trouble is, the story under that headline mentions nothing about Howard's election rival being 'gay'. It doesn't mention the word 'gay' at all.

Instead it's a story on John Howard and Julia Gillard waffling on about Howard's Monty Python-esque explanation of how saying "sorry" for rising interest rates is not the same as giving an apology for rising interest rates.

So what's going on here?

Is this a dirty tricks attempt by the Murdoch media to plant a thought-seed in peoples' minds that Kevin Rudd might be 'gay'?

What other explanation could there be for such a bizarre and unsubstantiated headline on a news site visited by tens of thousands of people this morning? A headline that has now been indexed on GoogleNews?

The headline is not a typo. The intention and headline is clear, despite what editors will later claim. And the accusation is all over the Daily Telegraph site. Here's how it appears on the 'National News' page :

Here's how it appears in the 'Also in News' listing on the main Daily Telegraph site (its second appearance on the main page) :

The aim of such a headline is clear : to spark speculation about Kevin Rudd's sexuality, and force him into a position where he has to issue denials.

This is very similar to the 'make him deny it' media campaign against Mark Latham in the 2004 election, where the Labor leader was forced to repeatedly deny that there was a saucy video tape of his bachelor party doing the rounds.

The Daily Telegraph and its sister Melbourne paper The Herald Sun were all over that one as well. There was no video tape, but Latham spent days in the final weeks of the election campaign denying it existed, or that his bachelor party was anything less than respectable. It didn't matter that the allegation was utter fiction, it planted seeds of doubt in voters' minds.

Clearly, the intention of the Daily Telegraph here is to plant a few seeds of doubt about Rudd.

The last two weeks of the election campaign, as far as some branches of the media is concerned and if this odious effort from the Daily Telegraph is anything to go by, is going to get extremely nasty.

UPDATE : The PM Not Sorry, Election Rival 'Gay' headline was removed from the front page of the online Daily Telegraph site around 11am today. It's still running, without explanation, on the National News page and the DT's Election 2007 page.

UPDATE II : The PM Not Sorry, Election Rival 'Gay' headline is now gone from all Daily Telegraph online pages. The complete x-ing of that headline happened at around 1pm. Same story, but brand new headline :

An e-mailer who claims to work at the Daily Telegraph, but sent a message during his/her lunchbreak from an internet cafe, claims journalist Malcolm Farr "went ballistic" when he heard how this story was spreading.

But not when he saw the original headline on his story?

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