CBC star Jian Ghomeshi has been fired over “information” the public broadcaster recently received that it says “precludes” it from continuing to employ the 47-year-old host of the popular Q radio show.
Shortly after CBC announced Ghomeshi was out the door on Sunday, Ghomeshi released news that he was launching a $50-million lawsuit claiming “breach of confidence and bad faith” by his employer of almost 14 years. He later followed that up with a Facebook posting saying he has been the target of “harassment, vengeance and demonization.”
Over the past few months the Toronto Star has approached Ghomeshi with allegations from three young women, all about 20 years his junior, who say he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the lead-up to sexual encounters. Ghomeshi, through his lawyer, has said he “does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory.”
In his Facebook posting Sunday evening, Ghomeshi wrote in an emotional statement that he has “done nothing wrong.” He said it is not unusual for him to engage in “adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission.” However, he said it has always been consensual.
Ghomeshi’s statement said that he has been open with the CBC about the allegations. He said the CBC’s decision to fire him came after he voluntarily showed evidence late last week that everything he has done was consensual. Ghomeshi blames a woman he describes as an ex-girlfriend for spreading lies about him and orchestrating a campaign with other women to “smear” him.
The three women interviewed by the Star allege that Ghomeshi physically attacked them on dates without consent. They allege he struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.
A fourth woman, who worked at CBC, said Ghomeshi told her at work: “I want to hate f--- you.”
“I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners,” Ghomeshi said in his posting.
“Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. … But that is my private life. … And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life.
In September, Ghomeshi told the Star that he did not understand why the newspaper was continuing to pursue allegations when “my lawyers have already told you it is untrue.” Over dinner at a chance meeting at a public event, Ghomeshi said he is a “good person” and described many of his recent successes, including an interview with Barbra Streisand. He said he could not answer any of the Star’s questions about his alleged abusive conduct.
Early last summer, the Star began looking into allegations by young women of sexual abuse by Ghomeshi over the past two years. The Star conducted detailed interviews of the women, talking each woman several times. None of the women filed police complaints and none agreed to go on the record. The reasons given for not coming forward publicly include the fear that they would be sued or would be the object of Internet retaliation. (A woman who wrote an account of an encounter with a Canadian radio host believed to be Ghomeshi was subjected to vicious Internet attacks by online readers who said they were supporters of the host.)
Ghomeshi is the co-creator of Q, one of the most successful shows in CBC history. It is the corporation’s flagship radio show in Canada and is syndicated to 180 radio stations in the U.S. In his Facebook posting, Ghomeshi paid homage to his “fantastic team,” a group of “super-talented” journalists whom he works with to produce the show five days a week.
That all ended over the weekend, Ghomeshi said. On Friday came the news that he had been put on indeterminate leave by the CBC to deal with “personal issues.”
Then on Sunday, two bomb shells.
First, CBC issued a statement shortly after noon saying Ghomeshi was gone. “Information came to (CBC’s) attention recently that in CBC’s judgment precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian Ghomeshi,” CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said in an interview.
Ghomeshi said in his Facebook posting that his CBC bosses gave him a choice to “walk away quietly” or to be fired. He chose not to walk away and “publicly suggest that this was my decision.” And so, Ghomeshi said, he was “stripped from my show, barred from the building and separated from my colleagues.”
Two hours later, his lawyers announced that Monday morning, when courts open, Ghomeshi would be filing a $50-million lawsuit against the CBC, a corporation he later said on Facebook he has “doggedly defended” for years.
His law firm, Dentons LLP, stated the lawsuit will claim general and punitive damages for breach of confidence and bad faith. The firm’s statement also noted Ghomeshi will “commence a grievance for reinstatement under his collective agreement.”
Sources say top CBC brass spent the weekend in closed-door meetings at their Front St. head office. Ghomeshi is a huge part of the CBC brand, and a fear that the brand would be tarnished is causing the CBC to try to “get out ahead of the story” by taking action before damaging reports in the media surfaced, sources say.
In his Facebook posting Sunday, Ghomeshi blames an ex girlfriend — whom he does not name — for spreading lies after he broke off the relationship early this year. He said he and the woman “began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission.” They used “safe words” and “regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels,” he said.
Ghomeshi also said he and the women jokingly talked about how their relationship was a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller Prize-winning book.
The Star had several detailed interviews with each of the three women, who said they experienced violence from Ghomeshi without consent, and with the former CBC employee, who complained of verbal and physical harassment in the workplace.
The women now accusing Jian Ghomeshi of violence began as his fans. Two had very similar early experiences with him. After Ghomeshi met them at public events, which he had promoted on CBC Radio, he contacted them through Facebook and asked them on dates. They eagerly accepted.
Each woman said she remembers Ghomeshi being initially sweet and flattering, then later suggesting or hinting at violent sex acts. When they failed to respond or expressed displeasure, they recalled Ghomeshi dismissing his remarks as “just fantasies,” reassuring them he wouldn’t ask them to do anything they weren’t comfortable with. The women deny that “safe words” were employed in the relationship.
In one woman’s case, she visited Ghomeshi at his Toronto home and alleges as soon as she walked into his house he suddenly struck her hard with his open hand, then continued to hit her and choked her. The woman alleges Ghomeshi repeatedly beat her about the head and choked her.
The Star’s interviews of the women were lengthy. The women, all educated and employed, said Ghomeshi’s actions shocked them.
Another woman, who described a similar alleged attack, said that in the lead-up to their date Ghomeshi “warned me he would be aggressive.”
“I thought this meant he would want to pull my hair and have rough sex. He reassured me that I wouldn’t be forced. (Later) he attacked me. Choked me. Hit me like I didn’t know men hit women. I submitted.”
None of the women has contacted police. When asked why by the Star, the women cited several reasons including fears that a police report would expose their names and worries that their consent or acceptance of fantasy role-play discussions in text or other messages with Ghomeshi would be used against them as evidence of consent to actual violence.
Only one of the alleged victims worked at the CBC. She never dated Ghomeshi. She alleges he approached her from behind and cupped her rear end in the Q studio, and that he quietly told her at a story meeting that he wanted to “hate f---” her.
The woman said she complained about Ghomeshi’s behaviour to her union representative, who took the complaint to a Q producer. As the woman recalls, the producer asked her “what she could do to make this a less toxic workplace” for herself. No further action was taken by the CBC, and the woman left the broadcaster shortly thereafter.
The Star presented allegations gleaned from its interviews to the CBC. Spokesman Chuck Thompson said he could not respond to any of the allegations, citing both privacy rules related to the employer-employee relationship and Ghomeshi’s intention to file a lawsuit.
Each of the women accusing Ghomeshi cite the case of Carla Ciccone as a reason why they desire anonymity. Last year Ciccone wrote an article for the website XOJane about a “bad date” with an unidentified, very popular Canadian radio host whom readers speculated to be Ghomeshi.
In the days that followed, Ciccone received hundreds of abusive messages and threats. An online video calling her a “scumbag of the Internet” has been viewed over 397,000 times. Ciccone’s claims about the behaviour during her “bad date” were far less severe than the allegations of abuse from the women now accusing Ghomeshi, who fear the online backlash could be significantly worse for them if their names were made public.
After the Star initially sought comment from Ghomeshi in the summer (after interviewing the women), Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Neil Rabinovitch, wrote to the Star saying that he had reviewed “emails and text messages” between Ghomeshi and the women Rabinovitch believed were the Star’s sources. The lawyer said in a letter he believed this information would “discredit the individuals we believe to be your sources.”
Rabinovitch said he was unable to disclose the emails and text messages because it “violates the privacy of all involved.”
Ghomeshi is using the same law firm and has also hired crisis communication consultants Navigator.
In his Facebook posting, Ghomeshi stated there have been no complaints about him to the CBC human resources department, nor have there been any “formal allegations” or “formal complaints” about his behaviour.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow at @_kevindonovan
Jesse Brown can be reached at email@example.com