First of all, my interest is how media covers cases like the one unfolding over the past week as reporter Laura Robinson sues Olympic 2010 CEO John Furlong for defamation.
Last night at 6 PM Global BC began its coverage with an inaccuracy.. Chris Gailus:: “Opening arguments were heard today in the defamation suit..”(etc).
No, the case was a week old when you said that Chris. Laura Robinson had spent time on the stand in the previous week outlining her travels, the people she talked to in Burns Lake and in Ireland, researching John Furlong’s past.
Then John Daly, who has been live-tweeting the trial daily, came on to explain John Furlong’s side of the story. Without examination.
History: The Georgia Straight published an article written by Robinson quoting allegations made by First Nations people that Furlong had been verbally and physically abusive while he was a gym teacher there about 1969. These allegations were supported by sworn affadivits from 8 of 30 people who are on the record.
Furlong sued the paper and the reporter. In the meantime, the CBC did a report the same day that also reported alleged sexual abuse. Furlong did not sue the CBC.
Three people came forward with allegations of sexual abuse, none of whom were part of the allegations published by the Georgia Straight. When those cases were dismissed, Furlong dropped the suit against first the paper and then the reporter. Why?
In court, according to the reporters who have been there, Furlong said he wanted to put it all behind him. He felt exonerated “in the court of public opinion”.
But at the moment, Furlong is not on trial for abuse of FN people, during a time in Canada he notably did not include in his biography, Patriot Hearts.
He is being sued for defaming the journalist, Laura Robinson. It would be wonderful if the Global BC report last night at 6 PM had addressed this question. Did Furlong defame her?
Watch this video of the news conference Furlong gave the day the story was published:
He speaks of Robinson’s alleged vendetta against him. He speaks of allegations, including “sexual abuse” which Robinson certainly knew about, and certainly pursued in the research for the story, but which had not been included in the article. This apparently was an editor-level omission, to be sure.
Furlong tells a story of being blackmailed.. “For a payment, this can go away”.
In the court last week, it was made clear that blackmail attempt , if it happened, did not come from Robinson. In fact, Furlong met the attempted blackmailer in the company of Olympic board member Dan Doyle (who has been part of the Clark government as well). At the end of the meeting they shook hands, and parted.
But in the video linked above, there is no separation of the blackmail attempt from the narrative of the reporter who has been out to get him. So, did Furlong defame Laura Robinson?
That’s what the trial is about. Was she negligent and prejudiced in her research? The Global, John Daly, report last night June 22 did nothing to answer that question.
I’m very very aware of the damage scurrilous reports can do to reputations. I am not here to judge whether or not Furlong behaved badly in 1969. I don’t know, and while no winners are in sight in this story, I would very much want the truth to cause the damage rather than lies.
I am here to ask if it’s wrong that Laura Robinson tried to give the people behind the 8 sworn affadavits against Furlong a fair hearing. And I’m wondering if Laura Robinson is getting a fair hearing in our press (acknowledging that the print press has done a better job representing the trial).
Furlong is a club member, highly connected, camera savvy, sympathetic, and a gifted story teller. Should that mean his story is automatically given unequal weight to those FN people who have said things against him, and as Jesse Brown of Canadaland points out, opened themselves up to criminal prosecution if they lied?
Read Jesse Brown’s take on the treatment of the FN people, and Laura Robinson, by the MSM, here (then I’ll add , for balance, a part of the story I find troubling for Furlong’s sake)
It came up at trial today, that Laura Robinson was connected years ago with Globe and Mail story alleging prejudicial treatment of black candidates for the Canadian National basketball team coached by Ken Shields. That story was retracted and an apology published.