David Wright denies comparing himself to the mayor from Jaws

BALLINA Mayor David Wright has hit back at an attack from Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack, denying he ever told a reporter he was "starting to feel like the mayor the Jaws movie".

Ms Cusack, a Liberal MP in the NSW Legislative Council, yesterday hit out at sensational coverage of sharks on the Northern Rivers coast by metropolitan media and took a swipe at Cr Wright over a quote attributed to him by in media across the world.

Cr Wright said he was asked by a Fairfax journalist in July, after the attack on Mat Lee at Lighthouse Beach: "Do you feel like the mayor in the Jaws movie?" to which he said he replied "No".

The Fairfax report did not quote Cr Wright making the Jaws comment, but did use the line on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald the following day. Fairfax broke out the jaws angle again on August 12, leading a story with the line: "Torn between public safety and economic reality, David Wright realises he is like the mayor in Jaws," but, again, not directly quoting him. 

Fairfax is not the only publication to put the Jaws question to Cr Wright. He said he was first asked it within half an hour of Tadashi Nakahara being killed in February and he's been asked it again many times since.

Fairfax was the first to put the Jaws mayor angle in print, but NewsCorp was not far behind, with The Australian newspaper attributing a partial quote to Cr Wright, saying he was starting to feel like the "mayor from the Jaws movie". The Australian repeated the partial quote on July 25

From there the quote went to the Daily Mail, where it was republished, attributed to The Australian, and expanded for the headline - 'I'm starting to feel like the mayor in the Jaws movie' (note the use of single quotes, which is sometimes used to indicate the words within are not a verbatim quote).

The UK Independent newspaper picked up the Jaws angle on August 21, saying Cr Wright had "compared himself to the mayor in Jaws", but did not use the quote published by the Australian and the Daily Mail.

The quote - either The Australian's partial or Daily Mail's full version - has also been picked up and repeated by many smaller news websites both within Australia and internationally.

That's an impressive trajectory for words Cr Wright swears he has never uttered or implied. 

"It's not even like that - the mayor in Jaws wanted people to stay in the water," Cr Wright said, referring the council's efforts to set up warning systems to get people out if a shark approaches too close.

"In some ways maybe I'm a bit naive - someone asks me questions and I try to answer them."


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