CBC Exec Breaks Silence on Ghomeshi Scandal

Head of English programming Heather Conway concedes 2010 complaint was ‘clearly mishandled’ during Friday interview.
Heather Conway, head of CBC english language services, in 2013. Conway said Friday that a 'deep dive' into Jian Ghomeshi's employment record earlier this year produced nothing problematic.

Heather Conway, head of CBC english language services, in 2013. Conway said Friday that a ‘deep dive’ into Jian Ghomeshi’s employment record earlier this year produced nothing problematic.

By: , Toronto Star    Published on Fri Nov 07 2014

The head of English programming for the CBC spoke publicly about the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal for the first time Friday, laying out the broadcaster’s side of the story in a carefully planned pair of interviews with her own staff.

Heather Conway outlined the CBC’s handling of the affair, telling chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge and As It Happens host Carol Off about when allegations against Ghomeshi came to light, how the corporation responded and why they didn’t notify police after managers saw evidence of the ousted radio star “inflicting an injury on another human being.”

Conway also revealed that she hasn’t personally seen the text messages, images and videos that Ghomeshi brought to CBC management on Oct. 23 to bolster his claim that any “rough sex” he engaged in was consensual, and which led to Ghomeshi being fired.

Conway’s media tour with CBC and an interview with the Globe and Mail, did not include a press conference or taking open questions from reporters. The Star has asked to interview CBC at least 12 times since the scandal broke Oct. 26.

Until now, the public broadcaster has been largely silent on the scandal that has engulfed Ghomeshi, a radio celebrity who hosted the internationally syndicated arts and culture program Q from 2007 until he was fired Oct. 26. Most details from management regarding the situation have been from leaked internal memos to staff.

In her CBC interviews Friday, Conway addressed a number of outstanding questions over how the CBC has handled the Ghomeshi scandal.

Speaking with Off in a radio interview, Conway said the CBC first became aware of allegations against Ghomeshi in April, when the Q host approached the company’s head of radio and head of public affairs to tell them the Star was looking into accusations of non-consensual violence and abuse.

Conway said Ghomeshi characterized the situation as a “former girlfriend, a relationship that had ended badly, and that it might contain embarrassing information about his sex life because he engaged in rough sex.

“It was very much cast (by Ghomeshi) as a private-life, sex-life story,” Conway said.

In the statement of claim to Ghomeshi’s $55-million lawsuit against the broadcaster, he alleges the CBC was preparing to help him deal with the story, even preparing press releases on his behalf. Conway described this to Off as “Mr. Ghomeshi’s characterization of events.”

The company launched a human resources investigation into Ghomeshi’s behaviour in June, Conway went on to tell Off, after a freelance reporter working with the Star suggested to the CBC that the allegations against the radio host were also coming from the broadcaster’s workplace.

The head of CBC human resources and the overseer of radio programming interviewed staff on Ghomeshi’s show and “did a deep dive” into his HR file, Conway said. The investigation turned up nothing, she said.

“I don’t have any complaints, I don’t have any record of sexual harassment or sexual violence, and so I have to go with what I have,” Conway told Mansbridge.

It wasn’t until Ghomeshi produced “graphic evidence” in October that the CBC realized this wasn’t a matter of an employee’s private sex life, Conway said. Without specifying, she said the evidence showed a woman being injured.

“At that point it moved out of the realm of sex entirely and into an issue of violence against women,” she told Mansbridge.





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