October 25, 2020

MAC SUES HURLEY’S: Bush takes action over media slurs

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Hurley’s supermarket part of the Hurley’s group

Saying, “enough is enough”, Premier McKeeva Bush has filed suit in the Grand Court charging Hurley’s Entertainment, its owner Randy Merren and former MLA Daphne Orrett, with defamation in May this year.

At the same time, Mr Bush last Monday lodged a similar suit against Cayman News Service, naming Cayman Brac’s Nicky Watson and West Bay reporter Wendy Ledger for a 19 May article he claims was “falsely and maliciously published”. While unspecified in the writ, Mr Bush seeks “compensatory, aggravated and exemplary damages”.

Mr Bush told iNews yesterday that he had grown weary of “the lies”.

“My wife and family have had enough of this. This affects us. I used to ignore it, even when there were lies, but I can’t ignore it anymore,” he said. “For a long time I have asked the press to be more responsible and they have refused.

These people have to understand that, yes, there is freedom of speech, and it’s fair to criticise, but it must be based on facts.”

He complained that Cayman News Service, which he said had been warned months ago, on 19 May had called him a “terrorist”, likening him to Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Premier McKeeva Bush

“We wrote them a letter, and they did nothing. They went on to try to justify it,” he said, similarly accusing Rooster’s “Crosstalk“ of “allowing people to say anything on there.

“There is no fairness out there with them,” he said, echoed by attorney Steve McField: “In the British system you have free speech, but you can’t go around slandering and libeling people.”

The writ claims that Ms Orrett “spoke and uttered” — while Hurley’s and Mr Merren “falsely and maliciously broadcast and published” — defamatory remarks calling Mr Bush and his administration “a failure” that had ‘”started with so much corruption”.

She had also accused Mr Bush of lying “on the platform of his church”, regarding a police investigation of a real-estate deal, and that, in the words of Mr McField, “he was hypocritical and unworthy”.

Both Mr McField and Mr Bush declined to specify what damages they sought, although neither rejected the idea of a public apology.

Hurley’s Entertainment owner Randy Merren declined to comment, saying the writ had not been served. “I am unacquainted with it at the moment, so we’ll have to see.

“I don’t know,” he said, asked if Crosstalk’s disclaimer disavowing phone-in opinions protected the company.

Crosstalk host Austin Harris said he had only “had wind” of the writ,” but said “If it’s a fight he wants, he can have it.” Company lawyers had reviewed the 17 May and 24 May shows, confirming the “dates are accurate”, but said it was an issue of both freedom of speech and the press.

Crosstalk host Austin Harris

“This is a little ridiculous,” he said, “The media have a responsibility, especially with live phone calls. There is a disclaimer at the top of the show, but we operate live, and while we have the power to intercede, sometimes they miss.”

Co-host Gilbert McLean accused Mr Bush of ”intimidation”, saying he had not yet seen the writ, but “if Mr Bush were serious he wouldn’t want to do this. In court, everything will come out.”

Undaunted. Ms Orrett said Mr Bush “was opening a can of worms. If I go to court and swear an oath to tell the truth, believe me, that’s exactly what I will do. There is a lot of stuff people don’t know and a lot of stuff with witnesses.

“It’s time he faced the music,” she said. “This man doesn’t really understand what he is dealing with. I need to retain my dignity and I am not going to stoop to his level, but I I will start from the beginning and I will not refrain from disclosure.”

In a five-word statement, Cayman News Service’s Ms Watson would say only that “we intend to contest it”.

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