TRACY WINTHER AGAINST HAWKE'S BAY TODAY
Case Number: 3131
Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2021
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
CASE NO: 3131
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF TRACY WINTHER AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD AND HAWKE’S BAY TODAY
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: OCTOBER 2021
The New Zealand Herald and Hawke’s Bay Today ran a story on October 13, 2021 headlined The 90% project: Wairoa mayor wants Covid jab system pranksters punished – ‘hold them down and give them the vaccine’.
The story reported pranksters clogging a vaccination clinic’s system with fake bookings, including one made in the name of Mayor Craig Little. This meant that legitimate bookings were unable to be made for a time. The story included Mr Little’s angry reaction to the prank which he described as a pathetic attempt at protest.
Tracy Winther said it was disgusting and irresponsible to headline “this repulsive call to rape people who are not vaccinated.”
It was bullying and coercive and “I am absolutely traumatised that the media would encourage the idea that it is okay to hold someone down and rape them with a needle. This is an incredibly harmful article that encourages persecution of a portion of the community and encourages forced rape to make them comply. It is sick.”
Hawke’s By Today editor Craig Cooper said the words “hold them down and jab them” were a direct quote from the mayor and they reflected his anger. He did not think it could be interpreted as some form of directive to rally a lynch mob or encourage rape.
He said he would be happy to consider a letter to the editor from the complainant.
The Media Council considered the mayor’s comment to be clearly hyperbolic, a deliberate exaggeration to convey his anger with people who obstructed the system set up to get the public vaccinated. It was an emotive and strong reaction to a stupid and dangerous action, but not in context an incitement to violence.
There was nothing to suggest it was a serious threat and it would be stretching credulity to say it was encouraging persecution or rape or that it was okay “to hold someone down and rape them with a needle”.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.
Note: Craig Cooper sits on the New Zealand Media Council. He took no part in the consideration of this complaint.