Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In a column published today in the Ottawa Citizen, journalism professor Andrew Cohen reminded his readers of the sleazy depths to which some media are prepared to stoop to promote their political causes and the depths to which some politicians may be prepared to stoop to pay them off. His subject was the sorry hatchet job CTV and Senator Mike Duffy did on then Liberal leader Stephane Dion on October 9, 2008 just 5 days before the last federal election. The issue arose as a result of a twelve minute taped television interview of Dion by CTV Atlantic reporter Steve Murphy. See: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/News/tale+Dion+tape/1700130/story.html

The facts of this shameful episode are worth reviewing.

The interview was in English rather than Dion’s mother-tongue French. The nub of the interview was this question put to Dion by Murphy:

"If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?"
Dion did not understand the question and asked Murphy to repeat it. After repeating the question two more times, Dion still did not understand it and said so. Dion looked confused and befuddled and requested that the interview recommence. After the completion of the interview CTV Atlantic broadcast the entire interview replete with Dion’s apparent confusion together with his requests to repeat the question.

Later on the same day on his national show Duffy told his viewers that the program would include a discussion of “Stephane Dion’s struggle with the English language (which) is going to be one you will be talking about for days.” The Duffy show ran only that portion of the interview that contained the exchanges between Dion and Murphy on the question that gave Dion trouble, with Dion’s hesitant attempts to grasp the meaning of it and answer it. Of course, that portion of the interview was aired a multitude of times over the next few days.

Prior to the interview and Duffy’s show, polls had been looking good for the Grits and it appeared that they were about to peak at the right time. The Duffy show changed all of that. Liberal momentum went into the tank, its polls started to go south and on election day, Harper got his second split decision.

Many Canadians were outraged at the behaviour of the CTV talking heads and lodged several complaints against what they perceived as unfair and unprofessional reporting. Those complaints wound up on the desk of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a body which is responsible for maintaining the code of conduct among Canadian broadcasters.

As reported by Cohen in his column the council recently issued its decision on the complaints. It found that CTV had indeed violated the code, stating that Murphy’s question was “confusing, and not only to a person whose first language is other than English.” It observed that Murphy’s question contained mixed tenses and moods and it was no wonder that Dion was puzzled. It also said that Murphy could have clarified the question and that Dion had every right to expect the footage showing him to be confused would not be broadcast.

As to Senator Duffy, the Council found his report to be unfair and unbalanced. Duffy, the Council held, had breached the code of ethics.

Michael Dennis Duffy was sworn in as a member of the Senate of Canada on December 22, 2008, two months and 8 days following the Harper victory and two months and 13 days following his breach of the broadcast code of ethics when he stuck the dagger between Dion's shoulder blades. His patron was his pal Stephen Harper.

A foul smelling episode indeed.


ij said...

Not just Duffy and almost the entire media (known exceptions: Andrew Cohen and Susan Riley) behaved disgracefully towards Dion during the entire campaign and beyond. Not only the media but practically the entire country is guilty of condoning and possibly secretly and not so secretly enjoying watching the bullying of Dion that went on ever since the Convention. To any outside who had the misfortune to have to witness this spectacle, Canada will never be the same as it was before this sorry and disgusting behaviour. Bilingual indeed. Tolerant indeed.

Darryl Raymaker said...

IJ, I couldn't agree with you more.

ridenrain said...

"It is very difficult to respond to an ultimatum that contains no ultimatum...Usually you say 'do X, or else.' You don't just say 'or else.'"

John Prince said...

To say CTV and Mike Duffy's treatment of Dion was 'disgraceful' would be an understatement. I remember being one of hundreds (if not thousands) who sent in emails of complaint and outrage over this whole 'rotten' business.

This Harper conservative government and its cronies have 'again' brought SHAME to our country, institutions and people. The sooner we rid ourselves of this bad taste in our mouth, the better!

Darryl Raymaker said...

Well John, thanks to your complaints (and the complaints of others), he was found guilty of a violation of the Code of Ethics. However, for the Harper crowd, that violation qualified him for the distinuished Red Chamber. Sad but true, old buddy.

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