Rann’s emphatic sex denial might not end this affair
Denials do not get any more categorical or absolute than this - and as of his press conference an hour ago, Mike Rann is being hailed as Adelaide’s own Bill Clinton after looking straight into the camera and declaring that he did not have sexual relations with that woman.
But unlike Clinton’s twitchy and unconvincing handling of the Monica Lewinsky allegations, Rann came out all guns blazing, specifically denying key aspects of the bombshell interview by his former friend and parliamentary barmaid Michelle Chantelois, hammering the fact that she was paid bucketloads of cash to sell her story, and declaring that he will sue both Channel Seven and New Idea for peddling allegations which he says are categorically false.
Rann also seized on the fact that Channel Seven got a key part of its story wrong, in falsely asserting that Chantelois’s estranged husband Rick Phillips had not been charged with assault after he punched the Premier in the face with a rolled-up magazine in a chance encounter at the Adelaide Wine Centre last month.
He also carefully resisted the temptation to criticise Ms Chantelois for what she told Channel Seven, saying only that he was distressed by the allegations, all of which he denied.
Given the intense nationwide focus on the SA Premier - and the deep-seated alarm and confusion in SA politics as to whether he would even survive to the end of today - Rann could not have been any bolshier as he addressed an uncharacteristically enormous SA press pack.
But it’s one thing for him to declare that he’s not going to go away - his accusers aren’t going to go away either. Ms Chantelois, in receipt as she is of at least $100,000 from Channel Seven for telling her story, and is under a commercial obligation to keep telling it.
Her estranged husband is the angriest bloke in South Australia. And with his assault charge being heard next month, there’s every chance that the allegations will continue to be aired not just through the media (and across every South Australian dinner table) but in the court room.
The timing could not be worse because with fixed terms in SA the election is set down for March next year. There is no clear successor to Rann - his deputy, Treasurer Kevin Foley, has only recently revealed he is being treated for depression and talked candidly about his failed marriage and relationships with other women.
The last thing Rann and Labor want is an entrenched distraction which keeps them off message, makes them look like an inattentive government, and gives life to a struggling Opposition. Even if as he says today it is all lies, in Michelle Chantelois and Rick Phillips, the Premier is up against two very angry people with nothing to lose, who may continue to act accordingly.
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