Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater was this morning backtracking over his claim that figures within the Labour Party tried to kill him.
Slater made the claim - dismissed as "delusional" by Labour Party Leader Andrew Little - in a Monday night text exchange with John Key which the Prime Minister until late yesterday denied ever took place.
After being forced to correct earlier statements that he had not been in recent contact with Slater, Mr Key late last night released an edited version of his text conversation with Slater.
Scroll down to read the full transcript of the text messages
In the texts, Slater tells Key he had learned from a journalist on Monday night that Labour MP Phil Goff had leaked details of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn's report into the SIS role in Slater's 2011 political attack on Mr Goff.
He goes on to claim that former Labour Leader David Cunliffe's chief of staff Matt McCarten was "involved in hack" - an apparent reference to the hacking of his email accounts.
The hacked emails formed the basis of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics.
In an apparent reference to Labour, Slater said "they played the real dirty politics...even tried to kill me... I have evidence of".
This morning however, Slater wrote: "Just to be clear, I never said the Labour Party were trying to kill me. That's the spin the Labour Party have put on it this morning."
He said his comments about McCarten and people involved in Dirty Politics trying to kill him "were separate and distinct".
"The criminal conspiracy was large enough for some of them not to know what others were planning in parallel."
'I don't think it's embarrassing'
Slater appeared on NewstalkZB this morning but was not asked this morning about the sensational claims in the text messages last night.
He rejected claims that Mr Key misled the country when he denied having contact with him over the reports, adding that he was entitled as a private citizen to contact whoever he wanted to, and the Prime Minister had the same right.
"I don't think it's embarrassing," Slater told NewstalkZB. "He's the Prime Minister of all New Zealanders."
Slater said the Prime Minister and he did not discuss the Chisholm inquiry, so Mr Key was not actually misleading the House. "If you ask a question with two legs to it then the person answering that question is entitled to answer just one leg."
Mr Key yesterday and even on Tuesday morning denied he had any recent contact with Slater. He later returned to the House to confirm he was in touch with Slater about Ms Gwyn's report the night before it was released on Tuesday.
"On Monday the 24th of November I received an unsolicited text message from Mr Slater with a reference to the IGIS report. There was a very short exchange where I briefly acknowledged that text message."
His office said Mr Key did not discuss the findings with Slater during that exchange.
Mr Key explained he had mistakenly thought the initial question related only to the report that exonerated former Justice Minister Judith Collins of allegations she worked with Slater to undermine former Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley. That report was also published on Tuesday.
Mr Little said there was "an air of unreality" about the texts. "Some of them look somewhat delusional."
He scoffed at the claim Mr McCarten was involved in the hacking. "I don't think his computer skills go that far."
Mr McCarten said claims he hacked Slater and that Labour was planning to kill the blogger were absurd, fantastical and had a "delusional" nature. "Cameron, I'm sure, has lots of thoughts in his head about the way the world works."
Mr McCarten said the claims had echoes of the hyperbole about Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley that earlier got Judith Collins in trouble, where Slater was "exposed" as an exaggerator.
"No one believes that we were organising to have him killed. I mean, this is just sad. And the Prime Minister just needs to get better friends I would suspect."
Mr Little earlier said the different versions of events raised more questions about the Prime Minister's office.
"The Prime Minister gave an answer to a question in Parliament today that was wrong. People will draw their own conclusions. This is a very disturbing development at a time when the Prime Minister's office is under question for its lack of integrity and ethics. We are seeing more of it yet again."
The Green Party said Mr Key had demonstrated that his answers to questions couldn't be trusted.
"The waters surrounding Mr Key and his attack blogger friend have been further muddied in the past 48 hours, highlighting the need for a Royal Commission to investigate the extent of the Prime Minister's involvement in dirty politics and the use of SIS information for political purposes," Co-leader Metiria Turei said.
Ms Turei highlighted that Mr Key's office described him as the Prime Minister in the transcript of the text conversation with Slater despite Mr Key's insistence that he didn't' communicate with Slater in his role as Prime Minister.
"New Zealanders can't believe what the Prime Minister says, he has been caught red handed," Mrs Turei said.
Meanwhile, Ms Gwyn yesterday said she would investigate Mr Goff's acknowledgement he disclosed findings from her report before its release.
She would be seeking further information from him and others.
"The broadcast or publication of that information may also have contravened the IGIS Act and, in any case, these events raise questions for the handling of future reports.
"Any issue of prosecution will, however, be for the police", she said.
Mr Little said Mr Key's admission "throws open a whole new issue".
"Now the Inspector-General's inquiry into the alleged leak of the report has to be widened and I expect the Prime Minister to co-operate fully with [her]."
The battle for the moral high ground over the leak of the report followed further efforts from opposition parties to get Mr Key to accept that his office's role in supplying information provided by the SIS to Slater, as confirmed by the report, was unethical.
"Why does he not cut the crap and just apologise to New Zealand for running a smear machine out of his office?" Mr Little said in the House.
But Mr Key said the report found there was no collusion between the SIS and his staff and they did not breach any obligations of confidentiality. He added that Labour itself had a history of dirty tricks.
Cameron Slater: gave it away to me...Goff leaked SIS report
John Key: It's a joke isn't it. They will attack Jason for talking to u and they break the confidentiality agreement. Classic lab.
Slater: Yup...I'm very angry over it...Goff is the one who leaked oravida stuff too.
Slater: They still have standard bloggers on staff
Slater: And Mccarten was involved in hack
Key: Hopefully it will all come out in time
Slater: I wish they would hurry up...they played the real dirty politics...even tried to kill me...I have evidence of.