Monday, December 16, 2013

Rosie versus Connie! And the winner is ..... Rosie!

Conrad Black has earned his fresh dose of ridicule: DiManno

Ex-newspaper mogul's attack on the Star is as underwhelming as his interviewing, says Rosie Dimanno

By Rosie DiManno
Monday, December 16, 2013
Laureen Harper (from left), Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel on the red carpet at the Governor General's performing Arts Awards Gala in Ottawa earlier this year. (Photo: George Pimentel)

Mrs. Conrad Black is the most gorgeous septuagenarian on the planet.

And, while hardly a kitten with a whip any longer, Barbara Amiel remains quite the dominatrix in print, a polished writer who can stick a stiletto heel into any subject’s jugular. A far better wordsmith than her husband, too. Indeed, Black isn’t even the best writer from among her five spouses.

I mention the Baroness only because hubby has specifically accused me of not appreciating her timeless beauty. I do. And maybe at some future date, Amiel can give me the name of her plastic surgeon.

We now know also why disgraced newspaper baron and felon Connie (Con, for short) devotes himself to producing remainder-bin biographical doorstoppers about dead people — because he doesn’t have to interview them. His singular lack of skill in this most basic reportorial function was on grotesque display last week whilst “chatting” — Black doesn’t call these puffball exchanges interviews — with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on his Zoomer show, an excruciatingly embarrassing episode that should be shown to J-students as instructive lesson on how not to do it.

In half an hour of fawning prattle (extended to 60 minutes of audience-torture later in the evening), Black not only hit all the low un-grace notes of sycophancy with a vulgarian he’d never seat at his dinner table. He also managed to generate the stuff of libel action by seducing from Ford a ganglion of lies about my Star colleague Daniel Dale who, despite the mayor’s persistence in repeating unadulterated tripe, did not 1) take pictures of Ford’s backyard; 2) stand on a block to take said imaginary pictures over the backyard fence; 3) take imaginary pictures of Ford’s kids while standing on a block peering over the backyard fence; and thus 4) gave no cause for Ford to insinuate that he, Daniel, is a pedophile.

All of this is part of the well-documented record, with full police investigation and exonerating findings attached. Had Black done a shred of research, he would have known it and not permitted Ford to go off slanderously half-cocked, at least challenging the assertions to which the mayor still cleaves, or was cleaving to until the moment he was served with libel papers Friday. As Black subsequently admitted in a slice-and-dice interview conducted by Carol Off on As It Happens — see, that’s how it’s done — he was unaware, oblivious to, the facts. He took Ford’s absurdities on faith because the mayor is such a proven straight-up guy and has never prevaricated about smoking crack, consorting with gang members, driving drunk in Florida, hurling booze-fuelled insults at strangers at a Leafs game, etc.

Allow me to quote from an email Black sent to the Star’s Robyn Doolittle:

“If true, I had no way of knowing this and no reason to suspect it. Your question of why I didn’t challenge the mayor is that I had no reason to doubt the truth of what he said on that point, especially after he had confessed his failings about everything else and apologized for them. My method is to converse with people and not debate them.

“The Star is perfectly capable of avenging their reporters’ offended reputation without becoming self-righteous with me about it . . . I have no reason to be a crusader for that f-----g awful newspaper.”

Now, as a chronic litigant, Black knows libel, just not from the other end. He’s the one who does the suing, if you please. At minimum, however, he should be aware that it’s best not to continue repeating the offence, as he did in the email. How dare the Star expect any chastened response?

Black continued (demonstrating he really does need copy editing): “What went on in Ford’s backyard was a matter that I got the mayor’s version of and you people can take issue with him as you will . . . I suspect we are reaching the point of diminishing returns (in this conversation) — it is an indication of the Star’s overweening presumption that anyone there thinks I can be dragooned, after all the Star’s defamatory attacks on me, into confessing that I was remiss in not challenging an apparently heartfelt comment the mayor made about being alerted to the intrusive antics of a Star reporter near his children and legitimizing them.

“What does it have to do with a legitimate story about the mayor? I respect and I have always respected the right of the press to have questions of public officials answered, but not to lurk suspiciously and perversely in or near the backyards of story-subjects spying on their young children.”

One more time: There was no lurking, no spying, no young children and no “perversion,” you contemptible oaf.

The widespread ridicule heaped on Black over his interview-not-interview has clearly shaken him. He has been wounded. To borrow his own labyrinthine verbiage, he is “like a decrepit Jurassic monster, with failing sight and palsied limb that yet comes snorting out of the undergrowth occasionally in pursuit of some misconceived or conjured cause.”

That passage is from the 2,000 words Black expended on the matter Saturday in the National Post, a newspaper he once owned, to huff and spew in typical purple prosy excess — his hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian tic — while glossing over the spectacular deficiencies of his Ford non-exclusive. Black took bombastic shots at the Star, reserving a particularly turgid paragraph for me. I’m touched.

No harm done. Readers will consider the source.

I have met Black precisely once, many years back when he made a cameo appearance for a party at the home of Post columnist Christie Blatchford, his marquee employee at the time.

“You sued me,” I said, upon introduction.

“I won,” he responded.

“Uh no, you didn’t.”

But again, don’t let facts get in the way.

On that evening, I actually liked Black. My warm feeling lasted for 32 minutes.

I was sitting on the roof of Christie’s house with some girl reporters, dangling our legs over the edge and doing shooters. We spotted Black leaving and importuned him to stay a little longer. “If you leave, I’ll jump!” I hollered.

“So jump,” he said.

What a boor. And a bore.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.


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