Colin Craig's former press secretary Rachel MacGregor says despite the politician's "dodgy poems", shoulder massages and "sleep trick" she felt she was forced to stay in the job.
The former TVNZ journalist turned PR advisor gave evidence at the High Court in Auckland today during the ongoing defamation case between the former Conservative Party leader and blogger Cameron Slater.
Craig is suing Slater, the blogger for website Whale Oil Beef Hooked, for defamation regarding sexual allegations involving MacGregor at a trial at the High Court in Auckland before Justice Kit Toogood.
In response to the allegations, Craig published a booklet called Dirty Politics which he distributed to more than a million households and held a press conference about Slater.
Slater is counter-suing Craig for what he said in the pamphlet and press conference.
When MacGregor was first approached to be Craig's press secretary she said she found the politician to be a badly dressed "jovial chap".
"He had his pants pulled up high, he was sort of dorky. He was a middle-aged man trying to have a go at politics," she told the court.
Initially hired in a part-time role she quickly became a full-time staffer as she attempted to provide Craig with an "image that was worthy of public discussion".
She said during her time at TVNZ she had put up with "inappropriate males", but that Craig's mention that the cut of her top was too low, followed by a letter, made her feel uneasy.
She said she outlaid her concerns and the pair talked of setting professional boundaries.
"As we know with Colin Craig he likes to do things in a weird way, a kind of quirky way."
She thought the pair had a "good working relationship" after the boundaries were established, before Craig "had gone and broken them".
Slater's lawyer, Brian Henry, questioned MacGregor about a Christmas letter Craig wrote to her in 2014. The letter also included two love poems.
"Then came the dodgy poems, and I thought 'oh for goodness sake, here we go again'."
She told the court she was curious to see what Craig had written but "was really offended" by the "really bad poems".
"It was awful actually, especially because he was going into detail about me physically, it was really disgusting."
Just days before her resignation, while on a flight from Napier to Auckland on September 14, 2014, Craig claims MacGregor said: "You know me better than anyone, Colin ... I want to be more than just your press secretary".
"I absolutely guarantee you that I never propositioned Mr Craig for me to be anything more than his press secretary ... it is very convenient for Mr Craig's story," MacGregor said.
She also talked of Craig's "sleep trick" and shoulder massages for his "horrendous pain".
"[The sleep trick], he reckons it was him imagining himself lying on my legs," she said. "[And] he would ask me to rub his shoulders - to help him perform in his interviews ... apparently. I don't actually know if that was the case.
"Now that I look back at it I wonder if he just wanted me to rub his shoulders?"
She said the massages made her "uncomfortable" and she made an appointment for Craig to see a male massage therapist. However, after visiting the therapist once Craig refused to return.
Henry asked MacGregor about an incident on election night in 2011, when Craig kissed MacGregor and touched her breast.
MacGregor said she stopped the incident and "lost faith" in Craig.
"I thought that he was trustworthy, but I lost a lot of trust in him," MacGregor said.
"I still wanted to keep my job, the car that I [drove], Colin owned ... I had to keep my job to stay afloat really."
MacGregor resigned on September 18, 2014, just two days before the general election.
The trial continues tomorrow, with Craig given the opportunity to cross-examine MacGregor.
Colin Craig's relationship with the press
Henry brought MacGregor's attention to a posed Fairfax Media photo of Craig lying in a some long, thick grass during his campaign.
"Oh dear," she muttered, later outlining some of the issues she had during Craig's interactions with the New Zealand media.
She said she tried several times to stop Craig from posing in the grass, but he insisted it was fine.
"You can lead a horse to water but you certainly can't make it drink," she joked.
She then spoke of an interview with TV3 journalist Brook Sabin, which followed Craig and MacGregor touring a shopping complex with members of the press.
After Sabin asked to interview Craig on camera, MacGregor said she needed to prepare Craig and went to the car for some make-up.
"When I came back he was already in front of the camera ... Brook was having some fun just asking him all sorts of ridiculous questions. By the time I got there it was too late."
She said Craig was discussing "a bunch of conspiracy theories", including chemtrails and questioning if man had landed on the moon.
Craig didn't see it as a problem until he watched it on the six o'clock news, she said.
She said Craig was not to engage with journalists without her being by his side to prevent him being caught off guard.
"He had the ability to make a normal media interview a disaster," she later said.
Craig's claims against Slater
Craig says the allegations written on Slater's blog Whale Oil Beef Hooked were irresponsible, inaccurate and very damaging.
In his opening address, Craig, who is representing himself, set out some of the central claims Slater made against him:
• That he had sexually harassed his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.
• He'd given her a "large sum of hush money" which Slater claimed meant the harassment was true.
• Craig had lied because he told his party and the public the accusations weren't true.
• Craig was a "sexual deviant" and had harassed another woman.
• Craig engaged in "devious conduct" regarding the Conservative Party.