Calgary

Arthur Kent testifies campaign financing came to 'crashing end' after Postmedia article

Volunteers quit, fundraising stopped and the campaign was "critically wounded" after Don Martin's column was published, according to Arthur Kent's testimony today in his defamation trial.

'It was so poisonously false,' said former NBC correspondent of Don Martin's column

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court in Calgary during a break in his lawsuit against Postmedia and other individuals related to a 2008 column, which remained readily accessible for years after it was published, a witness testified Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Hobnobbing with the likes of Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Kim Cattrall were some of the perks Arthur Kent detailed for a Calgary court as he reviewed his resume today.

But it wasn't the celebrities, awards and accolades from his time working at NBC and CNN he says he clung to as evidence of a successful career — it was his reputation.

"Those are some highlights but as we say in the business, you're only as good as your last story," said Kent in his testimony today.

The 61-year-old is testifying at a defamation trial resulting from a lawsuit he launched against Postmedia and columnist Don Martin based on an article published during Kent's 2008 bid for a seat as a Progressive Conservative.

Working for the National Post at that time, Don Martin referred to Kent as the "Scud Dud," and according to the statement of claim described him as having an oversized ego and running an unorganized campaign.

Kent claims the article injured his reputation, character and credibility. 

'Poisonously False'

Volunteers quit, fundraising "came to a crashing end" and the campaign was "critically wounded" after Don Martin's column was published, according to Arthur Kent's testimony today.

"It was surreal, it was like nothing I had ever imagined possible in modern Canadian politics — it was so poisonously false," said Kent of the article.

Kent also testified he was shocked  the opinion piece appeared on page three of the Calgary Herald — a prime spot — under the heading of Top News. 

"It was deeply saddening to me — this was the paper I grew up with," said Kent. "I started my career there."

Kent said Martin never contacted him for comment before the article ran.

'Scud Stud'

Kent became a household name during his coverage of the Gulf War. A young NBC colleague in San Francisco coined the nickname "Scud Stud" in 1991, according to Kent. 

"We treated it as a measure of dark wartime humour," said Kent. 

Soon Kent says staffers in New York were using it and the newspapers had picked it up too.

"It's something that's more that just a nickname to me.... I regard it as a standard of performance," he said. "It has become part of my brand, part of my identity."

In 2007, Kent left the world of journalism and moved back to his home province to take a run at politics seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-Currie.

"Some of us thought we were losing our Alberta advantage," said Kent of his reasons for running.

Alan Hallman's role

Lee Richardson, then a Calgary MP, called Kent and proposed Tory strategist Alan Hallman become his campaign manager. 

Hallman suggested offering inducements to others seeking the PC nomination to get them to drop out of the race, according to Kent's evidence.

It was decided that Hallman "would not be the right fit with our campaign," Kent testified today.

Kent went on to win the PC nomination in Calgary-Currie.

He said he only heard from Hallman on one more occasion — just before midnight on election night after Kent had lost to then-Liberal Dave Taylor.

"Massive majority and you lost. Well done. Call anytime," read an email from Hallman to Kent.

Hallman has previously been identified as one of three Tory sources for Don Martin's article that is at the centre of this trial. 

Stelmach leaves Kent campaign 'high and dry'

Other witnesses at the trial have criticized comments Kent made to the media during the 2008 election that were critical of the royalty review, and then-premier Ed Stelmach's lack of support for his campaign.

Previously painted as a loose-cannon candidate who refused advice from his campaign team, Kent refuted that impression today.

"If you have an oversized ego, best not be knocking on the doors of Calgarians at election time," said Kent.

It was campaign financial troubles and concerns about the royalty review he heard while door-knocking that motivated many of the controversial comments Kent made in the media, he said today.

With just $10,000 in the bank, the Calgary-Currie team was working with just a fraction of the funds boasted by some candidates, like Ron Liepert, who according to Kent had more than $150,000.

That's why Kent says it was such a blow to the campaign when Stelmach cancelled his appearance at a Calgary-Currie fundraising breakfast. 

"Unfortunately, it was really hanging our campaign out high and dry," said Kent. 

The two others identified as sources for Martin's article were Rod Love, now deceased, and Kristine Robidoux, who was the lawyer for the campaign.

In her testimony Robidoux admitted she gave Martin information about the tensions in Kent's campaign. 

The trial is scheduled for five weeks. Kent's testimony is expected to last at least another day.

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