Coronavirus: Kiwis amused by Ministry of Health's 'majestic roast' of blogger Cameron Slater

A text message from Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield to a prominent scientist has revealed he doesn't think blogger Cameron Slater "has much cred these days". 

The texts between Dr Bloomfield and the University of Aucklandmicrobiologist Siouxsie Wiles, named New Zealander of the Year in March, were released to Slater under the Official Information Act (OIA). 

Slater is best-known as the man behind controversial muckraking blog Whale Oil, whose communications with current National Party leader Judith Collins and former Prime Minister John Key made up a significant chunk of Nicky Hager's 2014 book Dirty Politics. Dr Wiles became a household name for her work in science communication as the pandemic took hold in early 2020. 

In September his website BFD released video of Dr Wiles sitting on the beach with a friend, which he and Collins claimed showed her breaking lockdown restrictions. Dr Bloomfield later said she hadn't broken any rules, but revealed she'd been in touch about the incident.

Slater requested the text messages between the pair under the OIA, which were made public on Friday night. In them, Dr Wiles tells Dr Bloomfield what happened, giving him a "heads-up" he might be asked about it. She said it was "depressing that [someone] filmed me and is trying to use that film to discredit me".

"I guess that's my life now!" she wrote. 

Dr Bloomfield said he was "sorry" to hear that, and thanked her for letting him know. 

"Unfortunately goes with the territory as I've found on a couple of occasions!" he replied. "I don't think Cameron Slater has much cred these days. Take care." 

The text messages, released under the OIA.
The text messages, released under the OIA. Photo credit: Supplied

Dr Wiles went on to say it "sucks" and that it felt like an "invasion of privacy", promising to stay off the beach in future. Dr Bloomfield told her to "keep up the great work and plenty of good people… will stand by you". 

In a note with the text messages, Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General Sarah Turner told Slater there was a "reference to you in one of the text messages. To clarify Dr Bloomfield’s intent: this was to reassure Dr Siouxsie Wiles that your new blog The BFD has less reach than your former blog Whale Oil."

Kiws on social media thought the whole exchange was hilarious. 

"Imagine OIA'ing a government official's comms all their texts are just about how much you suck," tweeted Hayden Donnell, who hosts RNZ's Mediawatch programme. 

"Posting his Ls on the timeline," wrote Twitter user @antihobbes, 'L' standing for losses. 

"Man - the contempt is palpable," wrote Reddit user Upstairs-Lemon1166. "And so it should be - here's Bloomfield working his ring off to try and save lives, and here's Slater crawling out from under his rock to muckrake over it. He is soo aptly surnamed." 

"TFW you’re expecting to dig up a conspiracy only to discover you are being slagged off privately," added croutonballs. 

On the FYI site, which collates OIA requests, one person left a comment calling it a "majestic roast". 

Slater wasn't impressed with the exchange, posting it on Twitter with the hashtag #LedByDonkeys. It doesn't appear to have been posted on the BFD site as of Saturday morning.