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John Turner: ‘A very tactile politician’

The Story


To some, it's a chummy greeting from a bygone era. To others it's an outdated gesture that's an affront to all women. When John Turner is caught on camera in patting the bum of Liberal Party President Iona Campagnolo, the 55-year-old finds himself the target of criticism from across the country. In this CBC Television report, Turner tries to defend a gaffe that threatens to overshadow his campaign.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 20, 1984
Guests: Iona Campagnolo, John Turner
Host: Sheldon Turcott
Duration: 2:13

Did You know?


• To his critics, John Turner will always be remembered for his notorious "bum patting" on the campaign trail during the summer of 1984. The incident took place in the first week of the election campaign, when he publicly hugged Iona Campagnolo and then patted her backside.
• The event, which took place in front of TV cameras in Edmonton on July 13, didn't become public until it was aired a week later on network television.

• The uncomfortable exchange (which can be seen in this clip) sparked questions about Turner's character and generated front-page headlines across Canada.
• In a July 21 Globe and Mail story he defended the gesture by saying "I'm slapping people all over the place. People are reaching out to me, that's my style."
• In this clip he defends his touchy-feely nature by saying "I'm a very tactile politician."

• He added that he used the locker-room greeting often with both men and women, and dismissed concerns from women's groups saying "I think people are losing their sense of humour"
• The reaction from women inside the Liberal Party was muted. Campagnolo said she was surprised by the pat, and had no choice to reach around and pat him back.
• In an interview with CBC's As It Happens, Judy Erola the minister responsible for the status of women, explained her boss's move by saying "he is an exuberant, hale character."

• Erola said she had sent Turner a memo to remind him of a party rule that forbade touching below the shoulder.
• To listen to the complete interview with Erola, go to our additional clip Explaining the Turner touch.
• The Campagnolo incident was not the only one of its kind during Turner's campaign.

• On July 19, the Liberal leadership hopeful placed his hand on the bottom of high ranking party organizer Lise St.-Martin-Tremblay after a press conference in Montreal.
• She told the Globe and Mail "It can be surprising [as a greeting], but everyone has their style" adding that it was a switch from Trudeau who rarely showed affection.
• Turner refused to admit he had done anything wrong, but did away with the salutation for the rest of the campaign.


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