In this Op-Ed piece, James di Fiore updates us on the Patrick Brown story (see CTV confirms broadcast of false accusation against Patrick Brown – the Current Feb.14) The opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author.
Here’s the breakdown as to why you should be helplessly enthralled with what’s taking place inside the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
First, Patrick Brown was levelled with sexual misconduct allegations by two anonymous women. (click HERE for story) He resigned after his staff abandoned him. Things looked bleak, until it was discovered that one of the reporters who broke the story had a personal relationship with one of the anonymous accusers. (Click HERE to read). Then, one of the accusers changed her story after it was proven that her account of what happened was impossible.
Are you still following? Good.
Since her story has changed, new information has emerged regarding the way CTV News handled the story. They left out witnesses who refuted the accusers from their original report. They even left out a startling detail; the accuser’s friend who she said accompanied her to Brown’s house had no recollection of ever being there, (click HERE to see), and says he has never seen the accuser with Brown. CTV padded their reporting, and they were caught.
Oh, by the way – CTV stands by its reporting.
Still with me? Fantastic.
So, Brown finally appeared on Global in a two part interview to proclaim his innocence. He also said he believed this was the work of his political enemies, although he did not name anyone specific. But, since the interview he also announced that he is back in the leadership race … and on the same day the PC interim leader kicked Brown out of caucus. Oh, and then the Toronto Star released a tape recording of Brown appearing to tell members of his team that he was resigning (click HERE for story), although the clip is only a partial one, and so the context is unclear. For all anyone knows he was just laying out his options.
One thing is crystal clear – this is the strangest political saga we have ever witnessed in Canada, a sort of House of Cards for Ontarians who haven’t had a scandal to sink their teeth into since Mayor Rob Ford was alive, in a leadership race that includes Rob’s brother, Doug, and former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s daughter, Caroline, as well as the widower of the late former finance minister Jim Flaherty, Christine Elliott.
Are you fully caught up yet? Probably not, given the pace of this story. While I’m typing this there have no doubt been another revelation or two. Perhaps another accuser may materialize, or maybe another prominent PC member will face their own sexual misconduct allegations.
One thing this story has spotlighted above all other facets is the notion that good journalism is suffering. CTV’s reporting was incomplete, but they nevertheless went forward with breaking the story and took down a prominent politician in the process. By withholding witnesses, not disclosing personal connections between reporters and subjects, and using hearsay to prop up the original story, CTV has embodied the #FakeNews hysteria many people have gravitated towards over the past couple years.
And other mainstream outlets have been no better. The Toronto Star’s exclusive recording of Brown telling aides he was resigning was a legit story, but they did not know the context and they did not publish the phone call in its entirety so that there were no unanswered questions.
The #MeToo movement is an important cultural shift for North America. For too long, women were subjected to abhorrent behavior by men in power and a change in our culture was long overdue. But if allegations against powerful men have now been weaponized, the movement itself will be the greatest casualty. Brown believes his political enemies are to blame for what he calls “lies”, a startling claim that he will have to prove one way or the other.
At any rate, we are nowhere near the end of this soap opera-like political saga. Stay tuned.
About the author: James Di Fiore is a freelance journalist focusing on politics and media. He is also a radio host at chcr.org in Killaloe. He will occasionally contribute articles to the Current.