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MP's tweet sets off teapot tempest as David Pecker exits Postmedia board

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Copy of National Post. Photo: Can Pac Swire/Flickr

It's interesting that the presence of David Pecker on the board of Postmedia Network Inc. only became a topic of public debate after he left the largest publisher of daily and community newspapers in English Canada last week.

The fact the evocatively named CEO of American Media Inc. was known to be a crony of U.S. President Donald Trump with a reputation for actively suppressing news unhelpful to the Republican Administration in Washington certainly seemed to trouble no one at the financially challenged Canadian newspaper chain.

Nor did it seem to worry anyone at Postmedia that American Media is best known for its National Enquirer grocery store tabloid, which can charitably be described as a regular publisher of fake news, at least when the topic was Trump's Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton.

When Pecker last appeared in the pages of this blog, barely two weeks ago, he had just been sideswiped by the chaos engulfing the Trump presidency.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer, had copped a plea to eight criminal counts, including working "in co-ordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" to violate U.S. campaign finance laws. And since the candidate in question was obviously Trump, and because his former campaign director had been found guilty the same day of eight counts by a jury, it was hardly a good day for the president.

It was also a lousy day for Pecker, seeing as court documents filed in Cohen's case kept mentioning how the accused Trump lawyer had worked with Pecker "to suppress potentially damaging claims against the now-president." Some of these claims involved a certain Stormy Daniels.

"It will be interesting to observe how the failing Canadian newspaper corporation covers the fact one of its directors is now making news, instead of just suppressing it," I wrote on Aug. 22.

Now we know. It was done with a terse press release six days later.

Postmedia's short news release announcing Pecker's sudden resignation from the boards of Postmedia Network and Postmedia Network Canada Corp. thanked him for his service and observed, "David noted that it is important for him to focus his efforts on ensuring that his businesses are best positioned for continued growth." (During a temporary absence, perhaps?)

It was only then, and only after Charlie Angus, the longtime MP for Timmins-James Bay and former candidate to lead the federal NDP, published a sharply worded tweet that the situation seemed to create any controversy in Canada. Angus asked: "How is Post Media going to survive now that its key advisor from the National Enquirer has gone down in disgrace?"

"Who is going to write the headlines and give the scripts to the journos?" his tweet went on.

Several sensitive journos rose to the bait and attempted a riposte, actually generating some social media discussion of what should have been a serious issue long ago. A certain amount of mockery, some of it hilarious, followed.

"I resent your comments suggesting journalists working for this company take orders regarding content from the likes of Pecker," wrote one Postmedia reporter.

As a former journalist for one of Postmedia's predecessor companies, run by essentially the same people long before Pecker came aboard, I can attest to the accuracy of this protest. We got our orders to suppress news inconvenient to the government of Ralph Klein from functionaries located much lower on the journalistic food chain than a member of the board.

Still, the presence of Pecker on the eight- (now seven-) member board was a striking symbol of the state of affairs at Postmedia, publisher of the National Post and daily newspapers in Edmonton and Calgary, which despite its financial troubles seems to be hanging on with unexpected determination.

As for the condition of the Trump presidency, I suspect Trump's political health right now is much like that of Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, when the great Nicholas von Hoffman diagnosed that presidency as "a dead mouse on the kitchen floor that everyone was afraid to touch and throw in the garbage."

Von Hoffman was fired as a TV commentator for that crack, but its truth goes marching on.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Can Pac Swire/Flickr

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