As I reported on October 8, comedian Mary Walsh produced a partisan video during the election campaign comparing Stephen Harper to Adolph Hitler and equating his administration with the East German secret police.
After the CBC posted this video, ostensibly as part of a news story, I sent a complaint to the CBC Ombudsman.
Today I received a reply:
This is in response to your email of October 9 addressed to Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman, and blog post of the same date (“My complaint to CBC Ombudsman about Mary Walsh equating Harper to Hitler”) drawing our attention to a CBCNews.ca story posted on October 7 on the Newfoundland and Labrador page under the headline, “’Save’ Stephen Harper, Marg Delahunty says in protest video”.
Since CBCNews.ca in Newfoundland and Labrador falls under my responsibility, Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, asked me to reply to you directly.
Let me say immediately that I regret you found Ms. Walsh’s words offensive. However, I want to be clear at the outset that the video you are referring to was written and produced entirely by Ms. Walsh and subsequently posted on her online protest page. CBCNews.ca subsequently published a news story about the video and only provided a link to it to illustrate the story.
Of course, Ms. Walsh is a popular figure in Newfoundland and Labrador. As I expect you know, she is a multiple award-winning comedian and actress, who for many years performed in the long-running CBC program This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Among the most popular of the characters she played is Marg Delahunty, a super-heroine. Dressed in her colourful Princess Warrior costume, Ms. Walsh has been widely covered in the news media over the years surprising politicians across the country, often mock-admonishing them for their perceived public shortcomings. You may recall stories from a few years ago, when in the guise of the Princess Warrior, Ms. Walsh visited then Mayor Rob Ford’s house in suburban Toronto.
On October 5, the popular comic, once again dressed as the Princess Warrior, posted a video to her online political protest page, “Marg Brings Change”. The tongue-in-cheek, anti-Conservative video, which was later uploaded to YouTube, was quickly viewed tens of thousands of times.
Whether you share it or not, anti-Harper sentiment was a recurrent theme heard during the election campaign. Ms. Walsh was the latest popular performer to urge Canadians not to vote Conservative.
On October 7, two days after it had been publicly released, CBC News posted an online story about recent artistic performances critical of Mr. Harper, noting that Ms. Walsh as Marg Delahunty had now joined Blue Rodeo, Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde in expressing her political views. It was not serious political coverage or analysis; nevertheless, we felt it contributed one more perspective to CBC’s extensive cross-platform election coverage.
The story briefly describes the video and quotes Ms. Delahunty before including something of the popular local performer’s background and pointing out that she and Mr. Harper had not always been so adversarial, noting that the two had once “famously locked lips”. By way of illustration, the story included Ms. Walsh’s video as well as links to the Blue Rodeo song, the Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde tune and video clips of Ms. Walsh on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
I should emphasize that the video expresses Ms. Walsh’s views, not the CBC’s — CBC is prohibited from advocating or supporting any particular point of view – and she is in the best position to explain or defend it. However, I can tell you that she does not at any point in the video equate or compare Mr. Harper to Adolf Hitler.
At one point, she suggests the government has cloaked itself in secrecy. In that vein she refers to Mr. Harper, using his first name, as “Stasi Steve”, an alliterative, if clearly absurd, reference to the former East German secret police. Seconds later, she follows that with the alliterative Germanic honorific, “Herr”, ahead of his surname. Her rant is exaggerated, inflated, evidently untrueand, certainly, partisan, but in our view it is not hateful.
I fully realize that any comparison to Adolf Hitler is offensive to many. And rightly so. But we do not believe Ms. Walsh’s video crossed that threshold. It’s something we are sensitive to and I regret that you understood her as “equating” the two in this instance.
Senior Managing Director
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