By JEREMY REES
Review: TV3 News Special, 7pm, last night
It was a study of outrage and anger.
Not politics, not genetic modification, not about contaminated sweetcorn nor the machinations of government, this was a spectacle of something primitive and usually well-hidden.
In the days ahead, no one will recall a single fact about GM sweetcorn from yesterday's TV3 News Special interview by John Campbell of Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Yet the exchanges were so iced with fury that this was riveting television, so gripping that audiences unconsciously swayed back from the screen during the close-ups.
Prime Minister: I am not going to be harangued on a set-up interview that I have no advice on.
Campbell: You are not being harangued.
Prime Minister: I am being harangued.
Or, Campbell: Why didn't you tell us, Prime Minister?
Prime Minister: Don't go "why didn't you tell me" anything.
The programme, recorded on Tuesday but screened last night, began with Campbell reporting on the allegations of researcher Nicky Hager's book Seeds of Distrust alleging a Government cover-up on the GM contamination of sweetcorn.
Campbell was certain - absolutely certain - of his facts, phrasing his questions as if the situation was a given, not an allegation.
Yet only Hager was interviewed for his side.
Until the Prime Minister appeared.
This is the woman the country admires for her sharp mind, her tight stewardship of the country, or so say most polls. But she also gives good anger, as her opponents know.
Things started quietly enough, the Prime Minister answering questions. She later claimed she did not know she was going to be interviewed about the specifics of Hager's book and it was telling that Campbell never raised it despite the lengthy preamble of the allegations.
"I think this interview is a set-up," said Helen Clark, jaw clenched.
"I am happy to come and do this interview another time when you have given me notice, but it is pointless to carry this on."
Campbell: I think you do remember what happened.
Clark: No, John. I remember about as much as I have told you.
Here was the confrontational political interview taken to its limits; as Campbell stayed obdurately on his questions and Clark flamed into anger at being ambushed, misled, forced to be subjected to this.
Her hands clamped in her lap, eyes increasingly hooded, head down as if to headbutt the annoyance of Campbell out of the way, she disconcertingly began to talk about herself in the third person.
Clark: The Prime Minister does her best to stay informed about a wide range of issues. But to do any specific interview about something as specific as this she needs advice about what the topic is, and you have given no such advice.
Then things got barbed.
Clark: If you want to make your reputation on that sort of approach to journalism, so be it.
Campbell: I don't give a damn about my reputation.
Clark: But we will revisit, John, whether we are prepared to be interviewed in circumstances like these.
Campbell: Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time.
Clark: Well I'm not thanking you, I think it's unethical journalism.
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By JEREMY REES