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TV reporter says he quoted Bennett on ads accurately

A Global TV reporter said it “seems ridiculous” that a B.C. Liberal Party official accused him of misquoting Bill Bennett, the cabinet minister who won re-election last week in Kootenay East.

At issue was a Bennett newspaper ad that said, “You want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how that money is being spent." The ad was seen by many as an attack on Bennett's NDP opponent, Troy Sebastian, a member of the Ktunaxa First Nation.

Bennett held a press conference defending the ad and accusing the NDP of playing politics, Global TV's Ron Bencze reported. “[Bennett] says the ads have been running since February and finds it ironic that the NDP is only raising its objections now, so close to election day,” the story said.

But the ad in question had first run on May 4, just days before the NDP brought attention to it.

When the Tyee called the Liberal campaign to ask about the discrepancy, Shane Mills responded by e-mail, "The reference to the ads running since February was provided by the reporter."

Speaking after election day, Bencze said he got what Bennett said right and he has the raw tape to prove it. He played Bennett's voice from the press conference over the phone. “There are a number of ads, I haven't counted them, the first one ran on February 23rd, 2009,” said Bennett.

Bencze said he reported what Bennett said accurately. “How they think that's paraphrasing, I got it wrong, that seems ridiculous.”

He added, “I wish if they had some issues they would have contacted me directly.”

The ad made race an issue in the constituency. The Canadian Press reported that Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the ad played on racist stereotypes. "The unspoken part is, 'My aboriginal opponent would not have any knowledge of these matters.'"

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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