Sorry for anti-Roma rant? As It Happens interviewer demolishes Sun News VP

CBC interviewer Carol Off, photo grabbed from the Internet. Below: Kory Teneycke, Ezra Levant.

If you think Sun News Network is bad now, just wait until they’ve got their ruling from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that their broadcasts must be carried on basic cable television and paid for by cable subscribers.

Any listener could infer they’ll be much worse after listening yesterday evening to CBC interviewer Carol Off demolish Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke’s slippery attempt to defend the far-right network’s commentator Ezra Levant for his racist diatribe against the Roma people six months ago.

In a short segment on the CBC’s As It Happens radio program last night, Mr. Teneycke, a former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, remained determinedly barricaded inside his “message box,” doing his best to sound contrite while refusing to acknowledge the patently racist intentions of Mr. Levant’s remarks on the Sept. 5, 2012, episode of his regular Sun News program.

“I don’t believe his intent was racist,” Mr. Teneycke insisted at one point in response to Ms. Off’s persistent questioning, which could serve as a textbook example of the now mostly forgotten art of how to conduct an interview with an evasive subject. “I don’t think his intent was spreading hatred.”

Indeed, Mr. Teneycke suggested at one point, Mr. Levant’s rant was just misunderstood … it was merely meant to be entertaining and satirical, even if it didn’t quite make the grade in that regard.

And why did Mr. Levant himself wait six months, Ms. Off wondered, to apologize for his remarks? Really, Mr. Teneycke seemed to suggest, the network’s sly apology in September 2012 ought to have been enough.

As has been noted in this space, it was hard to take that apology very seriously when it stated, “it was not the intent of Sun News, or anyone employed by Sun News, to promote negative stereotypes about the Roma people.” Excuse me!

“Why didn’t you fire him?” Ms. Off persisted, noting, “I would have been fired for saying that.”

Ah, Mr. Teneycke responded, but he knows Mr. Levant. “There’s no hatred in his heart.”

Anyone who heard the original nine-minute episode of The Source back in September would find this explanation very hard to square with what was actually said by the well-known commentator. Unfortunately, readers will be hard pressed to confirm that now, since Sun News as washed all copies of Mr. Levant’s vicious screed down the corporate Memory Hole and a recording placed on Youtube.com by a third party has been removed “due to a copyright claim by Sun News Network.”

Ms. Off’s interview left listeners with the inevitable conclusion that the timing of Sun News Network’s pleas to the CRTC for must-carry instead of optional status for its broadcasts on basic cable service – and the $18 million or so in consumer subsidies that would flow to it each year as a consequence is what is driving the network’s untypical and convenient remorse.

Not having that money, Mr. Teneycke claimed, poses an “existential threat” to the survival of Sun News – a bit of a stretch to anyone who understands the economics of the broadcast industry in Canada.

Still, the timing of Sun News’s CRTC application and the market fundamentalist network’s desire to get its snout deep into the public trough is no doubt part of the story. Its application is scheduled to be heard by the CRTC in less than a month, on April 23.

But other commentators on the Internet, like Rabble’s Karl Nerenberg, have made a persuasive case that Mr. Levant came very close to being charged with hate speech by the Metro Toronto Police Service and was saved only by highly unusual political interference with the police investigation by senior officials of the Ontario government.

Now that would have looked really bad for the network’s shredded credibility!

The Ontario officials, wrote Nerenberg, were “deterred by Levant’s well-known reputation for being a loud-mouthed bully, and didn’t want the Ontario government getting into a public spitting match with Sun News’ professional ranter. So Levant, ironically, was saved by his own notoriety and unsavory reputation.”

The Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui reports that staff of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre were told by police “they found more than enough evidence to charge Levant under the Criminal Code, and the Crown attorney agreed.” Detectives said they’d never before encountered a decision to reject charges in such circumstances.

This is why, of course, Mr. Teneycke’s previous employment in the Prime Minister’s Office is important, as is the warm and prominent reception received by Mr. Levant at the recent Manning Centre conference on conservative big ideas – which one hopes do not include encouraging organized attacks on identifiable cultural groups.

As Mr. Nerenberg wrote, “despite his near-buffoon status, Levant is still capable of striking politically-motivated fear in the hearts of senior decision makers.”

Well, we all know from experience how bullies operate.

If the Sun News Network and Mr. Levant are now rewarded for their glib and evasive apologies – which parsed carefully were only for causing offence, not for the offence caused – they will be further empowered.

If there are no consequences for their actions because they have friends in high places, their behaviour will grow more extreme.

This is just the way bullies are. So if you think Sun News Network is bad now, count on it they’ll be much worse if the CRTC forces cable subscribers to subsidize their activities.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

11 Comments on "Sorry for anti-Roma rant? As It Happens interviewer demolishes Sun News VP"

  1. Curtis says:

    Ezra ‘LeRant’ and his ample propensity for insult, innuendo and defamation, would do well to learn how an authentic apology ought to be done in public, without reservation. Ezra, check this out.
    http://www.monbiot.com/2013/03/12/my-agreement-with-lord-mcalpine/

    And here’s hoping that the CRTC rejects the Sun so-called News Network’s application for subsidies.

  2. anonymous says:

    I think the bigger story is that Karl Péladeau must be sorely pissed that he is flushing his inheritance, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, down the toilet of hatred and bigotry that is Sun TV. Will Steve and Kory ensure mandatory carriage so that Karl has a chance of making his money back?

    And what, exactly, did Steve and Kory discuss with Rupert in New York? I can imagine a book being written describing this whole sordid affair, something like “Everything You Wanted To Know About Starting a Right Wing Hate Network*”

    * but were afraid to ask.

  3. K. Larsen says:

    Well, if the experience of CBC reporters who tread on private sector toes in Alberta is anything to go by, say goodbye to Carol Off.

  4. Filostrato says:

    “There is no hatred in [Levant's] heart.” What is this? Teneycke as televangelist? (Or perhaps that should be televant-gelist. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

    Mind you, Korn Kob Kory is in an existential battle of his own at the moment. Where else could he work? After being a lobbyist for turning food into fuel – at vast expense and at a cost greater than the energy it produced (mmm, sounds like the Tar Sands) – and then the steady slide downwards to spokesmodel for Harper’s office and thence to apologist for racist ranters, where, or where is he to go from there?

    The Cons are really good at internet scrubbing, though. Stuff over which they have the slightest control disappears, as Mr. Climenhaga has mentioned, down the Memory Hole. I’ve taken to saving whole webpages since I’ve run into too many “This webpage could not be retrieved” notices when I’ve only saved the link and not the text.

    I can see concerned citizens with giant hard drives (nothing rude intended) saving news from destruction by the barbarian hordes in the future. They remind me of medieval monks in Irish monasteries copying and distributing the collected wisdom of the day before their libraries could be burnt down and the copyists put to the sword.

  5. George Lenard says:

    It is not just Levant and I say that with a simple question! Does the man or the network have journalistic integrity? Knowing what the boundaries and being able to express yourself with in those boundaries is crucial for modern media and the avoidance of misinforming the viewers. Yet, the same attitude can be said for our Harper Government and their attitude towards the role as elected officials, who once in office represent each and every constituent with out partisan favoritism. A right wing Government that eludes its record debt and failure to ignite the economy smells of the same lack of trust as awarded to Suns New Network!

  6. Missy J. says:

    You have got to be kidding me? People with a far left leaning can spew their hatred of Isreal, God, Christians and anyone with a view contrary to their own but Conservatives are not allowed to have their opinion, because it’s hate? Hypocrisy can never define the instance of it’s birth.

    • Now listen here, Missy… how nice finally to have an excuse to get away with that one! … Conservatives are allowed to have their opinions, as we all are, but hate is hate. What Mr. Levant said about the Roma was hate by any reasonable definition, whether or not it met the test of the Criminal Code of Canada. It’s mildly ironic, I suppose, that in a way Mr. Levant and Sun News Network were hoist on their own petard by the success of their campaign against human rights commissions and TV industry self-regulatory agencies, which left the aggrieved identifiable cultural group with little option but to demand a criminal investigation. Anyway, while I can’t speak for others anywhere in the full political spectrum, you’ll find no hatred in this blog of Israel (which as an uncritical supporter you might want to learn to spell correctly), God or Christians. As a practicing Christian – a religion that, in case you missed it, emphasizes forgiveness (and hence toleration) – I am sick and tired of “Biblical literalists” picking and choosing what to be literal about from the Old Testament. I’ll take these people seriously when they start advocating death for their own children when they sass mom and dad or work on the sabbath. Accusing people who stand up for tolerance and decency of hating God and Christianity is a cheap rhetorical trick frequently practiced by the right, now thoroughly discredited through overuse – especially in cases like this where the original argument wasn’t even on a theological theme!

  7. Harold Dover says:

    Its not racist to say that their primary source of income is from theft because their primary source of income is from theft. That is a fact. I think the problem is not that some columist has a controversial (albeit realistic) viewpoint but that certain types would rather have controversial viewpoints censored, even when they are simply parroting statistical facts.

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