The executive producer of Jian Ghomeshi’s former radio show has “decided” to take some time off while the CBC looks “for more clarity” around the allegations of sexual violence and harassment levelled against the disgraced radio host, the public broadcaster said Monday.
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson confirmed that Arif Noorani has “decided to take a few days off.” He did not answer a question about when Noorani would be back, and said he didn’t know what role he would return to.
Thompson said no other members of the Q staff are on leave and no disciplinary action has been taken against any CBC staff at this time.
Noorani, a key member of Q who has been with the program almost since its inception in 2007, refused to answer a list of questions sent by the Star about his knowledge of Ghomeshi’s alleged misconduct.
“I’m fully cooperating with the CBC’s investigation into this matter and will respect that process as it unfolds,” he wrote in an emailed response.
Noorani refused to speak with a Star reporter who visited his downtown condominium.
The CBC has yet to issue a public statement detailing what it knew and when regarding the allegations against Ghomeshi since he was fired on Oct. 26.
In a memo sent to staff last week and obtained by the Star and other media, executive vice-president of English services Heather Conway said Ghomeshi was sacked after his CBC bosses saw “graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman.” Sources have told the Star that evidence included videos.
Since then, the Toronto Star and other media outlets have published the accounts of nine women accusing Ghomeshi of harassment, physical abuse and sexual assault. One of the women, a CBC employee, alleges that on one occasion on his way out of the Q studio, Ghomeshi approached her from behind and cupped her buttocks.
Ghomeshi has said that he will meet the allegations “directly” and has maintained in a Facebook post and through a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC that all his sexual interactions have been consensual.
Other women who allege they were attacked by Ghomeshi continue to come forward. The Star has now heard of incidents dating back to his time as member of the band Moxy Früvous, and more allegations from his time as host of >play on CBC television and from his time as host of Q.
Over the weekend, Toronto police announced that they are investigating Ghomeshi after three women, including Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere, came forward with allegations.
A source told the Star on Monday that the 47-year-old used a CBC-owned phone to send lewd text messages to women, but neither the CBC nor the police will confirm if investigators are now in possession of the phone.
The public broadcaster believes its ownership of the smartphone refutes the former radio star’s claim that he was fired because of how he conducted himself in his “private life.”
“The contents of that phone belong to the CBC — it’s the CBC’s property,” said a source familiar with the situation.
The source says Ghomeshi lied to CBC management when he was asked “eyeball to eyeball” about allegations of violent sexual behaviour being investigated by the Star.
Ghomeshi showed texts and other material to CBC officials to bolster his claim, but the source said they were so shocked by what they read and saw that it had the opposite effect.
“(CBC) didn’t know the scope of what they were dealing with,” the source said, adding it is unclear whether CBC information technology staff have begun poring over Ghomeshi’s work email account for other evidence.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said police do not discuss details of an investigation.
Asked if CBC turned over the phone to police, Thompson told the Star in two separate emailed statements that, “We are cooperating fully” with police.
While former CBC executives have said they were never aware of any complaints against Ghomeshi, current bosses have been more reluctant to publicly disclose what they know. CBC president Hubert Lacroix has so far issued one statement, saying he was shocked and saddened at the allegations, and that the CBC has a “robust system” to create a safe work environment. Conway has yet to speak publicly on the matter.
On Monday, head of radio Chris Boyce, who played a big role in Q’s development in 2007 and who remains on the job, repeated in an email to the Star what was already said in Conway’s internal memo. This included Ghomeshi firmly denying allegations when they were first raised in the spring, and an internal investigation in the summer that did not turn up any complaints about Ghomeshi’s behaviour in the workplace.
“I am at work and am co-operating fully with all investigations,” Boyce wrote.
Employment and labour lawyer Howard Levitt said the CBC’s defence that it can’t say much due to legal reasons is “completely false,” pointing out that Ghomeshi’s lawsuit for breach of trust and defamation will more than likely be thrown out. He called Lacroix’s statement “superficial,” saying the CBC could have done a much better job “at protecting its reputation and regaining the public’s trust.”
Levitt said he would press the CBC to release more information to the public, including what they knew and when about Ghomeshi, their protocols for dealing with sexual harassment, as well as reiterating their stance on violence against women.
“There’s nothing stopping the CBC from making a more fulsome disclosure,” he said. “They should be out there making their pitch about what a great organization they are, what their values are, what their processes are, what they’re going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again, what proactive steps they’ve taken, their support for women in the workplace.”
The CBC has said it will hire a third-party firm to investigate allegations against Ghomeshi within the CBC, and that the recommendations from the investigation will be made public. Thompson said the firm will likely be revealed Tuesday.
The latest developments in the Ghomeshi story come as a number of Ontario journalism schools concluded internal investigations and found that they had not received any complaints about inappropriate behaviour by Ghomeshi.
A journalism student and journalism professor at the University of Western Ontario told the Star Sunday that students were cautioned against pursuing internships at Ghomeshi’s popular CBC radio show due to concerns about “inappropriate” behaviour toward young women by the now-fired host raised by a graduate who had interned there. But Thomas Carmichael, dean of the faculty of information and media, told the Star the university stopped Q internships in 2008 after a male student was asked to do errands rather than journalism. He did not respond to further questions about alleged inappropriate behaviour to a recent Western graduate.
Meanwhile, the Polaris Music Prize announced Monday it had dumped Ghomeshi from its jury, without providing a reason. Over the past week, Ghomeshi has also been dropped by his publisher, agent, crisis communications firm Navigator, publicity firm Rock-It Promotions and musician Lights, who was managed by Ghomeshi for 12 years.
- With files from Toronto Star staff