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Richards interview was not paid for — OBA

Post Budget Press Conferences: Minister of Finance Bob Richards delivers his Budget remarks. (Photo by Akil Simmons) ¬

In the wake of some public confusion over whether the One Bermuda Alliance paid for Finance Minister Bob Richards to appear on television, the governing party stated yesterday that there had been no transaction involved.

Mr Richards’s ZBM appearance at 8pm on Thursday, with journalist Gary Moreno, followed a longer interview conducted by the station on Monday night with the People’s Campaign.

In that earlier broadcast, ZBM broke the news that the People’s Campaign had obtained a trove of e-mails under Canada’s freedom of information laws.

The communications detailed the approach of the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) to come up with a public-private partnership to build a new airport terminal for LF Wade International Airport.

The group maintained that the e-mails suggested that Mr Richards had been less than forthright about the proposal, which was announced to the public in November 2014.

In particular, Mr Richards has been accused of misleading Parliament and the public by declaring in the House of Assembly that CCC had handled the hiring of Aecon, a construction company with strong links to Bermuda’s Somers Construction.

Mr Moreno prefaced Monday’s interview by calling it “special paid programme put on by the People’s Campaign, joining us here tonight”, rather than the regular broadcast of Let’s Talk. Thursday’s interview with Mr Richards was preceded by an on-screen notice calling it “a political broadcast” from the OBA.

Mr Moreno told the minister it was a special broadcast allowing him to respond to the allegations made against him by the People’s Campaign.

“None of those claims are true,” Mr Richards said. “We have conducted our affairs as it relates to the airport above board and by the book.”

Midway through the interview, as Mr Moreno began a question, the minister interjected: ““Before I answer that question, may I ask you a question? Is this a paid political broadcast on behalf of the OBA?”

“I was not made aware of it being a political broadcast,” Mr Moreno said. “What I was advised of was a special broadcast giving you the opportunity to respond to the comments that were made by the People’s Campaign.”

“I wanted the people to understand that,” Mr Richards said. “We’re both on the same page.”

Listener LaVerne Furbert phoned in to query the nature of the broadcast, with the minister giving repeated assurances that his interview was not a paid political broadcast — and as Mr Moreno wrapped up the interview, he closed with: “Just before we leave, let me be clear: this was not discussed with me as being a political broadcast.” That rebuttal was confirmed by the OBA.