Evan Solomon review led to 'decisive' action, CBC president says
Former Power & Politics host says he is ‘deeply sorry for the damage that my activities have done’
CBC president Hubert Lacroix says management moved quickly and "decisively" to cut ties with former Power & Politics host Evan Solomon after receiving information from a reporter and then completing an internal review into Solomon's private business dealings.
Lacroix spoke to CBC Halifax host Tom Murphy on Wednesday, following a report by the Toronto Star that alleged Solomon had secretive business dealings in the art world with people he had dealt with in his role as a journalist.
Lacroix said he wasn't in a position to discuss the case in "an open way" but said that after receiving information Monday and conducting an internal review, CBC found there was a breach of the conflict of interest and ethics policies, as well as journalistic standards.
"We moved extremely quickly and decisively because Canadians have to trust the integrity of our journalism and that's the announcement that we made yesterday," Lacroix said.
CBC News editor in chief Jennifer McGuire said in a note to staff Wednesday that Solomon disclosed in April that a company he and his wife owned "had a business partnership with an art dealer."
"We told him, and he assured us, this could not in any way conflict with his work for CBC News," McGuire's note said.
McGuire said a Toronto Star reporter approached CBC on Monday with information which "if true, significantly changed our understanding of the situation" and that on Tuesday, based on information from a CBC review, the decision was made to "discontinue our relationship" with Solomon.
The decision was made prior to the publication of the report in the Star, McGuire said in her note.
"Yesterday, we took the steps necessary to protect the integrity of our colleagues and the service we provide to Canadians," she said.
A statement from Canadian Media Guild president Carmel Smyth said the union is concerned there "may have been a rush to judgment here and a disproportionate response to what at [worst] may have been an unintentional breach of corporate policy that had no impact whatsoever on how Evan conducted himself as a host and journalist."
Smyth's statement also said the union is concerned that "factors unrelated to this case have caused management to single out and treat a respected journalist unfairly and in a way that may be very damaging to his career."
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said Wednesday that Solomon breached policies and that the CBC stands by its decision.
Solomon said in a statement released Tuesday that he formed a private business partnership in 2013 to broker Canadian art and that he had disclosed the business to CBC "earlier this year."
The former host of CBC's flagship political and radio programs said he didn't view the art business "as a conflict with my political journalism at the CBC and never intentionally used my position at the CBC to promote the business."
Solomon, who had worked in many roles at CBC since 1994, said he was "deeply sorry" for any damage his business had caused and that he has "the utmost respect for the CBC and what it stands for."
CBC has recently faced questions around paid speaking events by hosts and the fallout from the dismissal of Jian Ghomeshi.
Solomon's image and name have already been scrubbed from CBC property, Ioanna Roumeliotis reports.
Andris Pone, a brand consultant, told Roumeliotis that he was surprised at the speed of the dismissal — and also surprised that Solomon "would get himself in that kind of situation."
The allegations, he said, could lead to the perception "that he might be going lighter or be enticed … to go lighter in his line of his questioning on major figures if there is a financial gain on the line," Pone said. "I'm not suggesting for a second that Evan Solomon would actually do that — it's the perception that he might do that that is damaging to his brand and the brand of the CBC."
CBC's code of ethics demands employees "not use their positions to further their personal interests."
Chris Waddell, an associate professor with the School of Journalism and Communication Carleton University and former parliamentary bureau chief for CBC-TV, said it's "particularly important when you're covering politics and you're covering the people who ultimately make decisions about when the CBC gets money or doesn't get money — the members of Parliament — that you have to have a high ethical standard and you have to be above reproach."
With a file from The Canadian Press