Freedom of Speechwriter

Two speechwriters test the ethical and legal boundaries of their occupation. One gets punished, the other does not.

This week brings us two tales of speechwriters who attempted to push their influence past their professional bounds. One succeed, the other did not.

Lucinda Holdforth has been held back from publishing her memoir, Fighting Words.

You’ll recall she was the speechwriter to Qantas airline CEO Allan Joyce when Joyce famously shut down the airline during a labor dispute in 2011. After leaving Qantas, Holdforth wrote a book about the experience, characterizing it as essentially a tribute to Joyce’s leadership.

Qantas fought publication of the book on grounds that it contained confidential information that could damage the company. Last week Australia’s New South Wales Supreme Court sided with the company. Among the factors in the court’s eventual decision is Australia’s lack of a constitutional right to free speech.

After initially allegedly telling the airline’s deputy general counsel before the court’s ruling that the book is “either going to come out the easy way or the hard way,” Holdforth is resigned to the undisclosed settlement. She tells Vital Speeches via email that “this was not the outcome I wanted—but the court has made its decision, and Qantas has insisted upon its contractual rights—and I accept that. Now I will put my head down and focus on other books, other work and new writing.”

Including speechwriting, she hopes, which she considers “a fantastic profession and a worthy cause.” She tells us, “I was assuming no speechwriting work would ever come in again, but I’ve had surprising support. I was taken to drinks at the august and stuffy Australia Club by one client the other day, who said I can write a book about him any time!”

Godspeed, Holdforth.

Corporate communication executive by day, pro bono political speechwriter by night.

After a new book revealed he moonlights as a pro bono speechwriter for Israeli prime minister Benjamine Netanhayu, Time Warner executive VP of corporate marketing and communications Gary Ginsberg told the Philip Weiss of the Mondoweiss news site that he’d do it again—and in fact probably will do it again.

[Ginsburg] advised Netanyahu to pull out the famous bomb cartoon at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 and helped craft such lines as the claim that Iran threatens Israel with “nuclear extinction.”

“When he’s in the United States, he’s a friend of mine, I help him,” Ginsberg told me today. Time Warner is “fully aware” of his unpaid work for the Israeli prime minister, he said, but the company has not disclosed his work to the public.

“No. Why would they do that?” he said. “I do this in my free time as a friend of the prime minister’s. I in no way get paid… This is my free time. This is not as a corporate executive, this is in my personal capacity.”

Ginsberg’s role in the speeches came to light with the publication of Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, by former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who describes Ginsberg’s contributions to four Netanyahu speeches.

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