By Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press
The CBC, still dealing with fallout from the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, is defending one of its highest-profile personalities against a report that she attempted to “sabotage” a 2013 story about a bank that had sponsored some speeches or events at which she spoke.
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire said in a memo to staff Monday that the allegations about business reporter Amanda Lang’s involvement in the story on RBC’s use of temporary foreign workers were “categorically untrue.”
Lang is the host of “The Exchange with Amanda Lang” and occasional fill-in anchor of “The National.”
The CBC memo came after media website Canadaland published a report alleging Lang tried to scuttle the RBC story. It also said Lang was in a “serious relationship” with an RBC board member at the time the story ran.
Canadaland alleged Lang tried to convince colleagues during a conference call that the RBC outsourcing story wasn’t significant news.
McGuire said there was “rigorous debate” during the call but denied Lang did anything wrong.
“There was no ‘sabotage’ and the notion that ‘Lang’s efforts to scuttle the story were successful, at first’ (as Canadaland reported) is categorically untrue. The story rolled out on all platforms,” McGuire said in her memo.
McGuire said “appropriate protocols” were put in place after her personal relationship with the board member became known.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Lang said she disclosed the relationship in 2012 to the public broadcaster, which determined an on-air disclosure before an interview with RBC CEO Gordon Nixon was not necessary.
“In the case of my personal life, and the fact that I’ve been a business journalist for 20 years and have interviewed not just this CEO of the Royal Bank but the CEOs of all of the banks multiple times, long before this relationship existed, we determined that my journalism is not affected and the appearance of it being affected was not an issue,” a defiant Lang said.
“So disclosure was not deemed to be required.”
She also addressed the section of Canadaland’s report that stated she was paid for speaking at six events sponsored by RBC.
“One of them is a charitable event for which I was not paid, the other five were events held by third parties who sought on their own sponsorships from multiple sources,” Lang said.
“We don’t consider as a matter of policy that when there are multiple sponsors it creates an appearance of conflict — it certainly doesn’t create at any time any actual conflict — but the appearance of conflict is what the guidelines occupy themselves with, and in those cases that RBC was one of many sponsors, it was not considered relevant.
“The characterization that RBC paid me to give those speeches is in fact absolutely false and misleading and Canadaland knew that when they went to press.”
The CBC memo said it was “ludicrous to suggest that our journalism can be bought by an event’s sponsor.”
“Does the fact that RBC was one of many sponsors of the Mohawk College President’s dinner to support student bursaries mean we cannot be involved?” McGuire asked in the memo. “Should we now stay clear of the Scotiabank Giller awards too? Will we no longer participate in worthy causes like Canadian Journalists For Free Expression because Scotiabank is a major sponsor of its gala?”
Canadaland founder Jesse Brown said the website stands by its story “completely.”
“Unfortunately it was very clear early on that this was similar to the Ghomeshi story, rather than showing a legitimate curiosity at some well substantiated allegations and a curiosity to know if in fact their journalism was sound, it was a rally around the host, protect the host mentality and I’m unfortunately not surprised.”
Canadaland has quickly raised its profile since breaking news about allegations of sexual assault against former “Q” host Ghomeshi.
He is now facing seven counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking for incidents alleged to have occurred in 2002, 2003 and 2008.
Ghomeshi has admitted he engaged in “rough sex” but insisted it was always consensual. His lawyer has said he will plead not guilty to the charges.