"Folks, this is gonna be a thing." ~ Sun TV host Theo Caldwell
Sun News Network, a channel brought to by its own sense of self importance, is the epitome of pseudo-journalism, comprised of (self professed) semi-literate on-air personalities with the collective intellectual curiosity of Sarah Palin.
Irresponsible at best, the inherent lack of journalistic integrity is an insult not only to the many well-established, credible, hard working news organizations across the country, but to Canadians who've come to expect both accuracy, and honesty, in reporting.
Simply put, Sun TV is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Conservative Party of Canada, the National Citizen's Coalition, and the Canadian network of (oil and gas, pharmaceutical, tobacco) industry-funded 'think tanks' dedicated to promoting a neo-conservative agenda.
OK, maybe not so 'simply put,' but still an accurate description.
Modeling itself after Fox News -- with 'Hard News' in the morning and throughout the afternoon, followed by 'Straight Talk' opinion programming during prime time evening hours -- it's hardly surprising that like their southern counterparts, there is little to distinguish between the two.
Take for instance "straight talker" and host of Byline, Brian Lilley.
Three days into its network debut, Sun TV's 'Hard News' team began the day with an "exclusive" report from Lilley, who suggested Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was "on the front lines of (the Iraq War) pre-invasion planning."
'Hard News' host Neelam Verma dedicated her entire two-hour show to covering the "bombshell" report, often wondering aloud whether Canadians "know the REAL Michael Ignatieff."
Joining Verma in "exposing Ignatieff" was Lilley himself, along with Sun TV's 'Hard News' analysts Brigitte Pellerin (wife of Sun Media columnist and Sun TV contributor John Robson, and founder of Canada's anti-choice movement Pro Woman Life,) and Alex Mihailovich.
Among the notable statement to arise from the two hour assault on reality:
Lilley: "Ignatieff was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning ... his own words show he was intimately involved."
Verma: "This is really important information right before the election."
Pellerin: (noting Ignatieff professed to have been on the sidelines) "Why do I feel this Bill Clintonian debate here by the meaning of sidelines? Really!"
"This new information shows that indeed he was on the front lines. His role was in the pre-invasion planning."
Mihailovich: "I keep hearing over and over 'compassion' coming out of (Ignatieff's) mouth and how compassionate he is and how Liberals are about compassion ... Ignatieff himself was in the war room. He was in the background. He was planning this stuff out. He was helping the U.S. build towards a war."
"Ignatieff was involved with the US government planning the Iraq war -- that's the bottom line .... Ignatieff was in on the Iraq war."
"I have a document here; This isn't written by Ignatieff but this is from one of the centres that he chaired, looking at civilian body count and what would be acceptable. Now these are not words of compassion, in my eyes. This is something far beyond. This is cold and constantly it is something these guys in the back room do to go forward, and he was a part of this ... Now all of a sudden he's a peacenik of sorts and he's compassionate? Like, really!"
Pellerin: "This is going to be a revelation for a lot of Canadians for how deeply involved Ignatieff was in these 'cold calculations.'"
"You can bet the term 'flip flop' will be used a lot today, and in the coming days. This is really damaging info."
"Will the real Michael Ignatieff please stand up?"
Verma: "Do you think it will have an impact on how Canadians vote?"
Mihailovich: "I hope it does."
"The amount of flip-flopping we're seeing here is unprecedented."
Where Verma's morning show left off, subsequent 'Hard News' programs picked up, delivering eleven straight hours of fomented outrage, which was then followed by five 'Straight Talk' hours of rhetorical hyperbole.
Given the amount of time, and effort, dedicated solely to the coverage of Lilley's "earth shattering investigative journalism," one would assume the accusations regarding Ignatieff's involvement in the Iraq war were unequivocal; that the article was thoroughly vetted and meticulously fact checked, as is standard procedure with all credible news organizations.
Of course, that would require Sun Media (Quebecor/QMI) to be either credible or a news organization, neither of which it qualifies as.
Within hours of the report saturating the Sun TV airwaves, respected journalist Glen McGregor put Lilley to shame by swiftly, and thoroughly, disproving the entire premise of his piece.
Following a run down of the facts regarding Ignatieff and his activities with the Carr Center for Human Rights, including listing multiple NGOs in attendance for the "Understanding Collateral Damage" conference, McGregor levels the following blow:
"If the Sun was unaware these groups also participated in 'invasion planning,' that's just shoddy reporting. It took me four minutes to find the participants list on the Carr Center website.
If the Sun knew and chose not to include this fact in the story, readers can draw their own conclusions about the integrity of the reporter and his news organization."
Ironically, 'Hard News' personality Krista Erickson hosts a 'Media Monitor' segment with Lilley where they heap criticism on other media personalities; the first one taking place two days after Lilley's failed attempt at investigative reporting.
Lilley: "the tone was different ... with Ignatieff it was relaxed, it was sitting back, it was in his studio; it was cordial. There was a much more aggressive nature with Stephen Harper than there was with Michael Ignatieff. (Mansbridge) constantly interrupted him ... Harper is constantly interrupted."
Assuming Lilley watched both interviews, he had to have known, as was explained by Mansbridge at the beginning of each, it was the politicians who chose the manner in which to be interviewed. Ignatieff was "relaxed, sitting back, in studio" because he chose the "in-studio" option. Harper, on the other hand, selected "location of choice," his choice being to stand awkwardly inside a minor hockey arena.
Lilley's suggestion that Harper was "constantly interrupted" by Mansbridge is countered by observations made by respected journalist, and national editor of Maclean's magazine, Andrew Coyne:
"It's telling that in interviews Harper simply talks through and over questions he does not wish to answer. The interviewer asks a question. Harper talks around it. So the interviewer tries to follow up. At that point most (people) yield long enough to at least listen to the question. Harper does not. He just ploughs on. He won't take the cue. Saw that (with) Mansbridge, now (with) Friesen. Can't recall whether he was always that way, or only since becoming (Prime Minister). But that absolute refusal to yield the floor is not incidental."
Next, Lilley names Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star as the "sloppiest story" of the week, referring to her coverage of controversial remarks made by Conservative candidate Brad Trost about the funding status of funding of Planned Parenthood.
Lilley claims MacCharles "failed to contact the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London, England," claiming he did, and was told "the election got in the way" of their funding and "there's no problem with the Harper government."
Had Lilley bothered to read past the first paragraph of the article, he'd have come across this:
"William Stairs, chief of staff in Oda's ministerial office said in an email to the Star late Wednesday that despite Trost's claim, no decision has yet been made on Planned Parenthood’s application because CIDA is 'still reviewing the file.'
Brad Trost did not respond to the Star's queries.
Ryan Sparrow, spokesman for the national Conservative campaign, responded late Wednesday via email, and did not deny that the group had been turned down.
He said only: 'We base funding decisions on the quality of the proposals we receive. We are proud of our international assistance record and we are proud of the results that have been accomplished under our Conservative government.'
CIDA had not yet responded to the Star's questions on the Planned Parenthood's funding applications."
In light of recent reports which detail Planned Parenthood's struggle with the Harper government, it begs the question whether Lilley spoke with the organization at all.
Elizabeth Payne of Postmedia writes:
"In 2010, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was getting kudos for putting maternal health on the international radar screen, Canada, for the first time in 40 years, provided no money to support an organization which is one of the world's biggest health providers to vulnerable women.
As a result, International Planned Parenthood Federation was forced to draw on reserve dollars and had to make cuts to some technical services to make up a $6-million shortfall, officials at the organization's London office confirmed."
So, that's journalism : 2 Lilley: 0.
Evidently, the Sun News Network can't even accurately consume the news, let alone report on it. It's a woefully inadequate, amateurish parody of itself, destined to fail miserably once viewers have to start paying subscription fees.
It will, however, be interesting to see who the 'champions of the free market' point the finger at following when they meet their inevitable demise.
George Soros? The 'homosexual agenda'? Muslims? Frank Graves? The Human Rights Commissions?
Who am I kidding? They'll blame the CBC.