Ian Wishart, the journalist, author, professional controversialist - according to me, not him - born-again Christian, editor and publisher of Investigate magazine and the tomes published by his Howling at the Moon publishing company, said, in response to my request for an interview: "Kick me when I'm down."
We both laughed like things howling at the moon at that one. "Good try," I said.
He is the man for whom the line about there being no such thing as bad publicity might have been written.
He has just written an apology - an absolutely sincere one, he assured me - for the Richard Prosser "Wogistan" column which he banged into his mag, unread, because he was "asleep" at the helm and this, he agrees, is a very bad look.
So, the apology was an absolutely sincere one and and it was also absolute Wishart: "Wogistan", bad, and he apologised for it; but "troglodytes from Waziristan", would have been fine. For one thing Waziristan is an actual place, unlike the mythical Wogistan, and it is a place where troglodytes live, okay?
That is a much paraphrased summation of his argument about the rightness of saying one thing and not the other. The gist of which is this: "If you are advocating that all homosexuals should be rounded up and prosecuted and executed; if you are advocating that women are second-class citizens; if you are advocating that, as some of these preachers do, that there is no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend, in my view, you are a troglodyte."
This is a wonderful example of the unassailability of a Wishart argument: If you don't agree that people who think these things are troglodytes, ipso facto, you are, if not actually a troglodyte, in agreement with troglodytes.
It took me a good hour to understand that there is absolutely no point trying to take him on, or to cut holes in his arguments. He will just wear you down while enjoying watching you wade about in a bowl of porridge of your own making.
He says he loves a good debate and is happy to be won over by a good, evidence-backed argument but I'd say he is pretty sure he is right, oh, about 99.9 per cent of the time.
Also, he is "very, very, very clever," and I know this (he did demur, if not strenuously) because his wife, Heidi, told me so and having met her, even briefly, I'm not getting into any arguments with her either.
She is his "Jiminy Cricket" and says she often disagrees with him on things. Presumably they both agreed to have seven children. Seven! The photographer said, getting in just ahead of me: "You live here with seven children?"
Here is an "undisclosed" location, which is what he told me his address was when I asked for it.
This is both a joke - he had to tell me where he lived otherwise I wouldn't be here, obviously, attempting to kick him when he's down, now would I? - and not a joke at all.
I thought, as many do, that, "oh, that's Wishart being his paranoid, conspiracy-theorist self". But the non-jokey part is that Heidi has a stalker, currently locked up, but still, he is a very serious stalker who has been stalking her on and off since she was 16.
So I am happy not to say, as requested, where this location is, except that it is in the wops, and that it is on a 4ha lifestyle block, half of which he and Heidi sold to Heidi's mum, who now lives over the paddock - handily, presumably, given those seven children.
Actually, he has nine children (plus one more, a boy, now 19, who lives in the United States and who the Sunday News once called his "love child".) I said, to annoy him: "One in 10, eh?" Meaning that if he has ten kids, one of them could be gay.
He is widely held to be homophobic for reasons to do with [former Prime Minister] Helen Clark which I am not going to rehash here and which in any case he denies. He also of course says he's not a bit homophobic and once lived in a gay flat and has worked with gay people "all my life", but (there is always a but with Wishart but in this case it is mine) he holds the view that gay people are not born gay, that it is a choice.
He is always suing people, or threatening to sue them, so I had better retract that "holds the view". He has proved this in one of his books based on studies - non-Christian ones, by gay academics.
Actually, I don't care whether he's right or wrong because it makes no possible difference to the end result. This is simplistic - which is what he says arguments are when he really means stupid - and he has read the literature and I haven't. Besides, it's the "gay rights" agenda he's concerned with. He's come round to civil unions but not gay marriage because of the issue of gay couples adopting kids. He's not against gay couples raising their biological children.
We had a long, and, to me, labyrinthine argument about this which ended in him saying: "Coming back to basic journalism ..." Which was another way of telling me my arguments were stupid.
If one of his kids did come to him and tell him they were gay, he'd be fine with that, but he'd disagree with their "choice". I know exactly what he'd do: He'd argue them out if it. I know what I'd do if I was one of his kids, I'd become gay just to annoy him. Saying so failed utterly to annoy him; he laughed his head off.
Why did he have all of these kids? He says they didn't set out to and that Heidi wanted two girls and the configuration kept them going until they got their two girls and then they kept going anyway. The oldest is 15 and the youngest has just turned 1. He said they had no plans to have any more.
They must have the tidiest kids ever born because theirs is the tidiest house I've ever been in. He made us trim flat whites with his shiny machine and it was a demonstration of how to be a compulsive obsessive neat freak. He folded a spankingly clean tea-towel into a perfect square, carried it to the machine and placed it, just so, under the milk frother. He put the milk away before he made his own coffee which was probably absent-mindedness but it suited my theory. He's so excessively, compulsively tidy he tidies up a mess before he's even made it. "That's exactly right!" he said.
If the idea hadn't occurred to him before, it was his sort of idea. None of this came as a great surprise. You'd guess his attitude to tidiness would be the same as his approach to everything: Obsessive and compulsive. He might even have a conspiracy theory about dirt: It's out to get him.
Wrong again. He says he is actually "reasonably laid-back" and that the conspiracy theorist accusation was just an easy dig, (he did write a book called The Paradise Conspiracy) and that he doesn't enjoy confrontation.
"No, no. I'd prefer to live a nice, peaceful life like everyone else." He thinks that journalists now "... don't want to stick our heads up and get shot, so in that sense I stick my head up quite frequently".
You could argue - if you wanted to take another dip in that now cold bowl of porridge - that he has a choice about sticking his head up, but perhaps he doesn't; perhaps he was born that way.
He does have a choice about suing - a bad look for journalists, I think - but, no, he doesn't because "there is a lot of spite". Why spite? "Well, you work it out. Ha, ha. Wishart attracts anger sometimes." I think he just likes suing people but that is quite wrong too. Heidi said: "We don't like to sue." I coughed.
She said: "You can cough all you like. It's the truth. We don't." He had already told me that when they had the shiny house built Heidi was the project manager and "sat on" the builders and "cracked the whip". I believe this and so I have decided to also believe that they don't like suing.
They make a formidable couple and have, he said, "an amazing chemistry", which was a little more than I wanted to know. She has a marketing background and he has a "marketing brand", which is being Ian Wishart. This might account for the references to himself in the third person. As in: "... the right-wing establishment ... just wanted to marginalise Wishart". Or, "talking about suing: It'll shut up people saying, 'Oh, Wishart threatens; he never sues.' Well, he is actually suing. [Over the Facebook page campaign to boycott his Macsyna King book, Breaking the Silence: The Kahui Case.] And I'm being sued at the same time, so it cuts both ways".
I wonder what his brand actually is. I suppose it depends on whether you think he is a fearless champion of the truth or a humourless crackpot who enjoys controversy for the sake of it.
Either way you could suppose that he has a huge ego, and you'd get no argument there - from either of us. I wondered whether it was a sin to have a huge ego and he cheerfully said that it probably was. He's used to people saying he's a crackpot and to receiving death threats; he told a very long story about somebody or bodies trying to either kill him or involve him in a terrible accident by putting silicone in the brake linings of his car. He told this story as though it had happened to somebody else, and perhaps it had: To a humourless, uptight, crackpot and fearless champion of the truth called Wishart.
He does appear to be fearless; he says he doesn't know what frightens him - other than the usual fear of something happening to his family. He is a fatalist who believes in the power of prayer. He told another of his detailed stories about one of his daughters cutting her finger off on a slide at daycare and how God made sure that her finger was reattached successfully. I wondered, heathenishly and no doubt waspishly, (it was a bloody long story) why God had chopped her finger off in the first place. He gave me his cool-eyed stare: "Did he chop the finger off? Or is that stupidity?"
He said: "I think there is probably a misconception about who I am and what I am."
To some extent he's probably right. When he's not being Wishart, he's funny and amicable and charming, while being so irritatingly sure of his rightness that you want to spill crumbs on his super clean floor.
I liked him. Hopefully that will annoy him because he's not remotely interested in being liked. Where would the brand advantage be in people liking him?