Since Elisabeth Faure’s original post appeared on HeadSpace this past week, it has been viewed 45,000 times and has sparked immense media interest. Faure will be appearing on Breakfast Television tomorrow morning at 7:20 a.m.
“Everyone knew how Jian was. We just didn’t think it was that bad.”
That’s the common refrain I’m hearing from people who worked or continue to work at the CBC vis-à-vis #GhomeshiGate.
Since my initial post on Jian Ghomeshi’s downfall, a few things have happened.
An internal memo to CBC staff has been leaked, explaining the network’s side of things (at least the side their lawyers have instructed them to give). Network President Hubert T. Lacroix has published his own mea culpa, the timing of which somehow coincided with a third significant development: three of the women who allege Ghomeshi assaulted them, including actor Lucy DeCoutere, have filed police complaints, and Toronto police have now opened an investigation.
Reporter Jesse Brown, who first began investigating Ghomeshi, has interviewed another former Q staffer, Roberto Verì, who witnessed far more sinister things than I ever did, including Ghomeshi’s alleged molestation of a female employee (the same one quoted in the Star’s investigation). Verì also says Q staff had hand signals meant to suggest choking someone which they used to refer to Ghomeshi.
There are also reports at least one Canadian university refused to send their students to do internships on Q.
Personally, I have been busy fielding media requests from both English and French outlets, and scrubbing any mention of Q off my resumé.
It would appear we have reached Peak Ghomeshi, though I fear the worst may be yet to come.
To recap, I worked at the CBC as a “casual” (on-call, non-permanent employee) from late 2009 – early 2012, always in radio, mostly in my hometown. So, I know a few things about the CBC.
CBC is very concerned with their brand image, and has a strict code of conduct in place for its employees, both inside and outside the workplace. Joining a political party or attending a partisan political event are grounds for dismissal. Likewise, employees have to watch what they share via social media. You can bet employees aren’t able to post or Tweet a thing about #GhomeshiGate.
Basically, CBC is the type of workplace where an employee accused of shoplifting a bunch of bananas can trigger a full-on investigation, complete with HR and union reps getting involved.
Which is why I was shocked to hear what apparently transpired back in April, when Ghomeshi, one of the network’s biggest stars, told the CBC a “jilted ex” (Ghomeshi’s words) was accusing him of “non-consensual ‘rough sex’” (CBC’s words, which seem to me a lawyered way of saying a much shorter, uglier word, but I digress). But hey, Ghomeshi assured his bosses – bitches be crazy, and her story was made of lies! The CBC apparently simply took Ghomeshi at his word.
There are lots of things the CBC could have done at that time, particularly in light of Ghomeshi’s existing reputation. They could have reached out to Ghomeshi’s accuser, to get her side of the story. They could have suspended him while they investigated the case. They could have reached out to the Star regarding the allegations. Most of all, they could have gotten their formidable legal department involved, without delay. The CBC are lawyered up to their eyeballs. While some of these things may have happened, there are no mentions in the CBC’s internal memo, nor the Star reports.
Ghomeshi, in the meantime, hired “high-stakes” crisis-management firm Navigator, perhaps sensing this story could re-emerge. Ghomeshi has since been “jilted” by Navigator, likewise a second PR firm, Rock-it Productions, his agent Jack Ross of The Agency Group, his publisher Penguin Canada, his protégé Lights, his former bandmates from Moxy Früvous, and seemingly every single Canadian, and possibly on planet earth, with the exception of this guy.
In terms of the CBC, nothing further happened until later that summer, when the Toronto Star contacted a Q employee regarding Ghomeshi’s workplace behaviour. This time, CBC say they did launch an internal investigation, with the help of HR, but claim they did not uncover any allegations of impropriety or harassment, despite reports one Q staffer had already complained to the show’s executive producer that Ghomeshi sexually harassed her, physically and verbally. Again, Ghomeshi denied everything. Again, that was good enough for the CBC.
Only when Ghomeshi (apparently falsely) thought the story was about to break open, and offered his bosses “graphic” photos and videos to prove his innocence, did the MotherCorp take action. The images and video Ghomeshi, in his delusion, thought would save him, appear to have so shocked and appalled CBC brass that his fate was sealed.
I find it hard to believe that a network so paranoid about their public image, which so closely monitors their employees, which had long been aware of rumours and allegations surrounding their star and his behaviour with women, let things slide so far, for so long.
The implication here is very clear: that a hit show and a star host are worth bending the rules for. That a bit of alleged ass-grabbing at work is no biggie, nor are allegations of “non-consensual” sex from an ex, who is probably just bitter and crazy. At CBC, we need graphic video evidence of harm inflicted on a woman or women to get off our butts and really do something.
My heart goes out to those who worked at CBC, and those who continue to work there, most of whom are blameless in this affair. They are getting approached by the media. They are unable to speak freely on the biggest story going right now, and surely have partners who are begging them for a single night of Ghomeshi-free conversation. As host Michael Enright has said, they are tired.
But blame should fall upon the executive producer at Q, and management who at first were willing to dismiss the entire story, and the HR team who apparently conducted such a half-assed investigation the second time the allegations surfaced.
Everyone knew how Jian was. They just didn’t think it was that bad – or did they?