Sun TV commentator Brian Lilley responded to my blog post about his latest wild claim of biased journalism on Parliament Hill, viz, that the Press Gallery is “likely” still populated by communists.
Where to begin?
Let’s take a look at his riff about “all of the reporters” who are married or “shacked up” with political operatives, and that most of them are Liberals or New Democrats.
This is entirely consistent with the conspiracy theory that grips conservatives both here and in the U.S. — that the media is a den of liberals whose bias is evident for all to see. It’s a natural extension of the theory, then, that these biased journalists are sleeping with like-minded political counterparts.
As with his charge about communists, Lilley does not actually offer any names to support the shacking up claim.
He does, however, correctly note that my mother is a “former advisor” to NDP leader Ed Broadbent. That was long before I arrived on the Hill. She later worked as advisor to Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough. She now is a “former” everything, as she died in October.
(The only grief I ever got over my mom and my work, oddly, was from New Democrats. Specifically, Svend Robinson and Robin Sears, who at varying times and for different reason claimed my mom would/should be ashamed of me for things I wrote about NDP MPs.)
I don’t follow Press Gallery romantic gossip too closely, but in my experience, journalists tend to select mates within their own tribe. I know of plenty of reporter pairings, but I could think of only a few examples of journalist-politico couplings:
* The first that came to mind was that of Gloria Galloway, a superb Globe and Mail reporter married to Mark Dunn, who had a stint as a Liberal aide a few years ago after a long career in journalism. Conservative bloggers routinely frothed about this whenever Galloway wrote about the government. Dunn now works as a reporter again for — this is awkward — Lilley’s employer, Sun Media.
* There’s also CBC radio reporter Alison Crawford, who was or is (again, I don’t follow) the significant other of Chisholm Pothier, press secretary to… Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. So, not exactly a compelling example there, either.
* Going back a few years, Anne Dawson wrote politics for Canwest. Dawson is married to Derek Ferguson, who was a journalist and then a Department of Finance official seconded as an aide to Paul Martin. I don’t recall any allegations of bias against Anne, who routinely smacked the governing Libs around on behalf of the National Post. She has since gone to work for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.
* As for New Democrats, Postmedia’s Sarah Schmidt is married to NDP exec Brad Lavigne, but it’s worth noting that Schmidt writes mostly on consumer issues and not hard politics.
* There’s also Shawn Dearn, a former radio reporter whose job as CFRB/CJAD correspondent on the Hill Lilley later filled. Dearn left the gallery years ago to become a public servant. He is now
married engaged to Ian Capstick, a former Jack Layton aide who is now a communications consultant and NDP advisor.
* The Star’s Susan Delacourt, a personal bête noire for Lilley, is married to a bureaucrat. I have no idea about his politics and don’t care.
* The one best and perhaps only on-point example of Lilley’s premise is CBC Radio’s James Fitz-Morris, married to NDP aide Kathleen Monk (who was a CTV producer when they met). I’m sure James, an excellent reporter, has rules of engagement in his coverage of the NDP. I never heard any complaints and I’m told the CBC goes to some length to keep him out of potential conflicts. (Example: He was booked to host the radio show, The House, the week of Jack Layton’s cancer announcement. Management decided to replace him with James Cudmore, as it was obvious the show would be almost entirely about the NDP. Fitz-Morris did file to that show, but only a bit on the US economy.)
I’m sure there are others. But all of this begs the question. None of these people I’ve named voluntarily appeared in a TV report as members of an average family supporting a key party platform plank during an election campaign, as Lilley did.
Lilley claims, rather hilariously, that he wanted no part of it when he wife said she was going to be featured in the CTV news item on the Conservative child benefit plan. He dismisses his role, saying that he appeared “in a shot.” In fact, he is seen in
three four separate shots. This was no accident.
It is a mind-boggling notion that he wanted no role in his wife’s media appearance, yet allowed himself to be videotaped by the CTV camera crew.
His contention that I have unfairly drawn his family into this is also ridiculous. I rather think Mrs. Lilley did that when she agreed to appear in the piece.
But her politics are not the issue — it’s that Lilley, then in the Parliamentary Press Gallery covering the election, appeared in the clip as a member of the family endorsing the Tories’ $100 per kid per month idea. That’s it.
So, to sum, Lilley alleges there are “likely” communists in the gallery but doesn’t name one to back this ludicrous claim. Then he contends the press gallery is further compromised by romantic relationships between its members and political staff, but again, won’t say who.
And yet, we are left with a bright and shining example, via the CTV National News, that illustrates either Lilley’s own personal bias, a glaring lapse of judgment, or a little of both.
He does have nice hair, though.
UPDATE: I was reminded by a colleague of one other example of journo-politco romantic entanglements, that of one Krista Erickson and Lee Richardson, the Alberta MP. That was a huge oversight. Of course, as Richardson is a Conservative and Erickson also works for Sun TV, so that doesn’t really help Lilley’s fantasy of lefty legislator lovin’, either. Unclear is whether Erickson and Richardson are still a couple. Don’t know, don’t really care.
Just like everyone else I’ve named above, I’m sure Erickson can put her professional obligations above her personal relationships.