By Darrow MacIntyre
Senior producer of news, CBC New Brunswick
In a news release issued Tuesday PC candidate Ted Flemming impugned the fairness of CBC New Brunswick by suggesting staff here may have given preferential treatment to Liberal Leader Brian Gallant in the production and broadcast of "one on one" interviews with television host Harry Forestell.
The allegation stems from the fact that Forestell did two interviews with Gallant on Friday Sept. 12.
Flemming suggests that the CBC gave special treatment to the Liberal leader by granting him a "redo." He also asks the CBC to explain why Gallant was interviewed twice. In the interest of openness, and because it's true that it's unusual to conduct two such interviews, here is that explanation.
Mr. Gallant did the first interview with Forestell around 11 a.m. on Friday from a Radio-Canada studio in Moncton. In that interview, the Liberal leader made, and repeated, statements about his party's tax policy that turned out to be incorrect.
The interview was published on CBC.ca and prepared for broadcast on television that evening. At about 3:30 p.m. Friday, shortly before the TV broadcast, the Liberal party informed the CBC by email of a clarification involving the policy in question and admitting that there were inaccuracies in the morning interview.
A decision was made by me, in consultation with Harry Forestell and the CBC's head of Journalistic Standards and Practices, that Mr. Gallant should be asked to clarify and explain the errors. The Liberal leader came to the Fredericton station where he was asked to clarify his policy and was roundly grilled by Forestell about his apparent confusion over his own party's tax policy and the leadership issues raised by that confusion.
The CBC made no secret of the fact that any of this happened. Both interviews with Brian Gallant were published at CBC.ca on Friday. In addition, reporter Robert Jones filed a news story outlining Gallant's stumble. It aired on the television show prior to the interview. A similar news story about the party's confusion over its tax policy was published that night at CBC.ca. CBC Radio also covered the stumble.
I encourage New Brunswickers to watch and read all of this coverage, which continues to be available for anyone to view at CBC.ca. You'll see that this was no "redo." This was solid public policy journalism. We did the first interview, and published it online immediately. When Mr. Gallant's team acknowledged their leader had made mistakes, we did a follow-up interview and published it online immediately, and on television at the first opportunity.
In doing so, CBC News has been transparent, responsible, and balanced in its approach. Both interviews were thorough and rigorous, calling for accountability from the Liberal leader. The actions we took are the same ones we would have taken regardless of the party involved.