John Drennan: Textbooks at dawn offer to senator
Published 26/02/2012 | 05:00
THE high-profile Labour senator John Whelan has been challenged to a "duel" by the celebrity economist Constantin Gurdgiev -- although sadly the weapons of choice are more likely to consist of economic textbooks, rather than pistols at dawn.
The catalyst for the unlikely spat occurred after the senator strongly supported a register of interests for journalists and broadcasters and said 'pundits' should clearly declare their interests when appearing on talk- show panels.
The brooding Russian took immediate and strong exception and issued a public challenge to Mr Whelan for an "intellectual duel" on the issue.
Mr Whelan's concern over individuals "with vested interests and conflicts of interest . . . appearing on television programmes" also sparked a war between the duo.
An incandescent Mr Gurdgiev tweeted: "I challenge the Gov puppet to an intellectual duel in ethics, Face to Face. Economist with Agenda against Puppet."
Mr Gurdgiev added: "Sorry to say it but Senator is making a serious accusation. . . and he must defend it properly."
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he confirmed that he had issued the challenge but had later "withdrawn the puppet phrase".
However, the economist stuck to his guns and claimed that Mr Whelan was trying to violate the "right to free speech" by singling out "economists critical of the Government".
Responding to the offer, Mr Whelan confirmed that after he had raised the issue on Tonight With Vincent Browne on Monday, "an economist has challenged me to a duel because he claims I impugned his integrity."
The Labour senator insisted that when it came to appearing on television programmes, "individuals with stakes in other financial products and currencies are talking about the collapse of the euro".
He added: "This needs to be addressed and no good journalist has anything to fear from putting everything into the public domain."