A couple of weeks back I questioned the journalistic ethics at CTV News because of its story about two unnamed women claiming they had sexual contact with Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown when he was an MP.
The story had cost Brown his job.
I believed CTV News should have named the women or not run with their complaints.
I am back questioning the journalistic ethics at CTV News again this week because of what I see as another lapse in judgment.
It discovered that a key accusation by one of the women involved, that she was underage and in high school when Brown provided her with alcohol, was not true.
Yet it led off its story containing this new information with word that the two women who accused Brown of sexual misconduct were standing by their stories.
It wasn’t until the fifth paragraph that it said the one woman now says “she was of legal drinking age and out of high school” when the alleged incident occurred.
And that is all CTV News has to say about what is at best an untruth. It spends its time from then on mainly retelling the women’s stories and how, since they came out, one has been mistreated on social media.
CTV News quoted the accuser who spoke the untruth (I am being extremely diplomatic using this word) as saying she’s been besieged by vicious comments online, including pictures posted on Twitter in an attempt to reveal her identity.
“The comments made about me on social media were demeaning, victim-blaming and misogynistic,” she said. “My privacy was invaded, my character was assassinated, and I was subjected to gratuitous slurs about my private life and relationships. The comments that I have been subjected to ignore altogether the abuse of power by an older sober man over a young intoxicated woman.”
The way the original stories read, Brown, a single man who is a teetotaller, asked for oral sex and the woman said she provided it briefly.
Yet CTV News conveniently leaves out any mention of the woman’s compliance in the story at hand.
It again quotes the woman as saying Brown offered her a tour that ended up in his upstairs bedroom, something Brown says was impossible because he was living in a one-level apartment.
“So I kind of came to, frantic, like you need to let me out, I’m leaving.”
In this new version, the woman ran out the door and down the street to a friend’s home.
CTV News says the friend remembers the night clearly.
“She called me back and just said, ‘He whipped it out, I’m uncomfortable, I’m coming over.’ I said, ‘OK,’ because he’s on the same street as my parents,” her friend told CTV News.
I think it was incumbent on CTV News to tell the whole story, as to what happened after he “whipped it out,” as its earlier story had.
Or has that story also changed from what the woman originally told the news agency?
Surely CTV News should have asked the woman why she did not tell the truth about her age for the original story and then passed whatever she said on to us.
However, maybe it did find out and didn’t like the answer because it doesn’t look like it did much of a job of vetting the woman.
The burying of the untruth was not lost on Brown, who said in a Facebook post:
“Not even having the decency to come clean and admit that they recklessly published a poorly researched report, CTV is burying this new fact, hiding it in the middle of an online story. In fact, CTV is doubling down on its terrible reporting, digging a deeper hole for itself, by featuring more of my accuser’s lies.”
Brown also has a message for CTV News:
“You lied. You defamed me. I will not allow your brand of trashy journalism to hurt another person in this country.
“And here is my message to my accusers – both of them. If you truly stand by your allegations, then I urge you to contact Barrie Police and have them lay charges, Barrie Police can be reached at 705 725-7025. These types of allegations should be dealt with in a proper and fair forum.”
The second allegation is from a former employee of Brown’s who was 19 and in first-year university. She alleges Brown, a 35-year-old MP at the time, got on top of her and tried to kiss her when she was very drunk.
Brown said that she was the aggressor.
“It was she who tried to kiss me, while the woman I was seeing was in another room,” Brown said in his Facebook post.
“I stopped her immediately and offered to drive her home, which I did,” Brown said.
For some reason CTV News in this story left out the fact that this alleged incident also occurred in Brown’s bedroom.
As CTV News said in the lead of its story, both woman stand by their stories.
But the story of the one who did not tell the truth about her age has certainly become suspect.
As has, as far as I am concerned, CTV News’s reporting.
The issue is far from over.
The Canadian Press reported Thursday that Brown says he is suing CTV News over its reporting of what he alleges are false accusations of sexual misconduct.
It quotes Brown as saying in a Facebook post Thursday that the two unnamed women who made their allegations to CTV are lying, and that his lawyers have reached out to the network’s legal team.
“I am suing CTV,” he wrote. “My lawyers are talking to CTV. Early this week, CTV lawyers agreed to ensure that all emails, texts and other correspondence related to this travesty are held independently for safe keeping.”
CTV says it stands by its stories.
“CTV News stands by our reporting and will actively defend against any legal action,” said communications director Matthew Garrow. “We welcome the opportunity to defend our journalism in court.”
Pollster John Wright tweeted after the one accuser changed her story, “CTV now reports that accuser of Patrick Brown recounts key piece: she was not underage in bar and not in high school but she ‘stands by her core story’ and CTV stands by their original story. In a court of law this would shred a case. CTV credibility is on very, very thin ice.”
I don’t know whether CTV News was wrong legally or civilly in reporting the claims of the women, but I certainly believe it was wrong morally.