UPDATED: Tale of the tape redux: How do you deny what was never said?

ALSO NEW AND FRESH AND WORTH CLICKING: Read Dona Cadman’s supplementary affidavit here.

EVEN MORE OF AN UPDATE: Ryan Sparrow (!) sends along this excerpt from an interview Zytaruk did on Mike Duffy live on June 4 — the day after the Conservative Party press conference alleging that the tape had been “doctored.” What strikes me most of all is the remarkable consistency between the description of how the three of them – himself, Harper and Dona Cadman – were positioned on the stairs in the following passage, and what he told Dale Goldhawk earlier this year.

Mike Duffy Live, June 4, 2008:


Mike, I will just back up. Give you some context here. Donna and Chuck had asked me to write Chuck’s biography. During the process of interviews and everything Donna told me about this insurance policy business. I thought the best thing for me to do would be to speak would Stephen Harper about it, being the leader of the party. You know, head guy, so to speak. So a local conservative fellow had winked me over to the Cadmans’ place that day because they said that Stephen Harper would be showing up. So I got to Donna’s place. Parked my car across the lawn. When I got to her front door she was at the top of the stairs. This is inside the house. Stephen Harper is in the middle. And I’m at the bottom at the landing there. You know, captive audience, unfortunately, for him. And Donna introduced me, you know as the biographer of Chuck’s book and I can’t remember exactly what Mr. Harper said. He said something to the effect about Chuck being a nice guy and he deserves the — you know, he deserves that kind of thing and then he went. When he went out the door, I followed him, and I interviewed him at the top of the driveway. He had like a suburban or his people waiting at the bottom of the driveway. And I brought my tape recorder out, and I started my interview with — I mean, there was a life insurance policy for Donna, a million dollar life insurance policy for Donna, do you know anything about that or something to that effect? I don’t have the tape in front of me.

UPDATE: See also this post, which compiles the various accounts of that day being put forward by the main players.

A little more than a month after the Conservative Party released its as-it-turns-out-somewhat-less-than-definitive proof that the infamous tape of the interview between the Prime Minister and Cadman biographer Tom Zytaruk was “doctored” comes this explosive headline, courtesy of CanWest News:

Cadman’s widow denies author’s story

Affidavit says Zytaruk did not meet Harper in her house

The widow of former MP Chuck Cadman has contradicted public accounts by author Tom Zytaruk of what happened the day of an interview that is pivotal in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lawsuit against the federal Liberals.

In a sworn affidavit submitted in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice yesterday, Dona Cadman says the journalist did not meet Mr. Harper in the Cadmans’ house and was not introduced to him by her.

“Nobody came inside my house while Mr. Harper was in the house with me,” she said. “I did not introduce Tom Zytaruk to Mr. Harper on Sept. 9, 2005.”

KAPOW! BOFF! SCRUMPH! There goes Zytaruk’s credibility, and the Liberal party’s main defence against the PM’s defamation suit, in one fell swoop – except that neither of those statements from Dona Cadman contradict Zytaruk’s version of events at all.

According to the affidavits filed last month by Stephen Harper and his two aides present at the time, it was his press secretary, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, who approached him with Zytaruk’s request. In other words, the interview did take place; this latest affidavit from Dona Cadman, then, questions only the allegation that she was the person who introduced the then-opposition leader to Zytaruk, who was waiting outside the house.

But as far as I can tell, and believe me, I’ve been poring through the archives, Zytark has never actually made that claim in any of the many, many interviews he’s done in which he’s described the now infamous conversation between himself and the PM:

From The Hill Times:

Can you comment on the Conservatives’ allegation that the tape you released of your conversation with Mr. Harper was edited? Was it edited in any way, shape or form?

“You’d have to agree that I would be thoroughly insane to do something like that. Of course it’s not edited. The tape that’s been released has been released in its entirety, it’s unaltered, unfiddled with, un-whatever you want to call it. It was just a real quickie interview on Dona Cadman’s doorstep/driveway. It’s not like Stephen Harper invited me out for steaks or something to discuss this at length. He was on his way somewhere and I was just fortunate enough to catch him to give me a response to this thing. I appreciated his candour, that he spoke to me, and didn’t give me a no comment or anything.”

From the Globe and Mail:

Mr. Zytaruk, who writes for a Surrey newspaper, has covered stories about Mr. Cadman since the murder of his son drove him into politics.

After Mr. Cadman’s death, Mr. Zytaruk heard that Mr. Harper, who was then leader of the opposition, was paying a personal visit to the Cadman residence. Mr. Zytaruk interviewed Mr. Harper in the driveway.

“Of the offer to Chuck,” he quotes Mr. Harper as saying, “it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, OK. That’s my understanding of what they were talking about.

Also, Zytaruk has never claimed that he was in the house at the same time as Stephen Harper – something he pointed out via email to the reporter writing this story last night:

Mr. Zytaruk, Mr. Cadman’s biographer, said he was “extremely surprised, disappointed and deeply distressed” by her statement. “I haven’t seen these affidavits and would be extremely surprised if Dona said I wasn’t in the house that day,” he said in an e-mail. “In fact, we were both still inside the house after Harper stepped out, and she indicated to me that now was my chance to go interview him.

“Moreover, immediately after I interviewed Harper outside, I went back into Dona’s house and played the tape back to her in her living room.”

Zytaruk’s account of what happened that day has been entirely consistent, as far as the sequence of events: he was waiting outsid the Cadman house, he interviewed Stephen Harper, and after Harper had left, he went inside, presumably on Dona’s invitation. The one thing new in his response to the latest affidavit is the implication that he -Zytaruk- was in the house with Dona before he went outside to interview Harper – based on the use of the word ‘both’ (which seems to refer to Dona Cadman, not Harper) which the latest affidavit does not directly contradict.

From Dona Cadman’s May 23, 2008 affidavit (not available in text format, full court record including affidavits available here):

After my meeting with Mr. Harper concluded, Mr. Tom Zytaruk interviewed Mr. Harper for approximately 10 minutes in my driveway. When that interview concluded Mr. Zytaruk came into my house and I told him that Mr. Harper told me that he had no knowledge about a $1 million insurance policy offer made to my husband by Conservative Party representatives. Shortly after that conversation, Mr. Zytaruk and I left my house and drove to attend a Conservative Party Task Force Meeting on “Safe Streets and Healthy Communities” at the WHalley Library in Surrey.

Now, we  — or at least I — haven’t yet gotten to read the most recent Dona Cadman affidavit, in which she “denies” Zytaruk’s story, according to CanWest. But going only by just the two statements cited in the story to back up that headline, I’m not sure if it will turn out to be the knockout punch that the Conservative Party clearly hopes it will be, at least as far as Zytaruk’s credibility goes.

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