Quebec media star Éric Salvail suspended following sexual misconduct allegations

A popular Quebec media personality who is facing an array of sexual misconduct allegations was suspended from his professional activities Wednesday as employers and clients distanced themselves from him.

WARNING: story contains graphic content

Eleven people told La Presse they were victims or witnesses to misconduct of a sexual nature by Quebec host and producer Eric Salvail. (Radio-Canada archives)

A popular Quebec media personality who is facing an array of sexual misconduct allegations was suspended from his
professional activities Wednesday as employers and clients distanced themselves from him.

Éric Salvail said in a Facebook post he'll take a few days to take stock after Montreal's La Presse published a story with
allegations from 11 people who said he either sexually harassed them or that they witnessed such behaviour by him.

Ten of them came forward under the condition of anonymity and described sexual harassment, inappropriate or sexual touching and unwanted comments. The producer and talk show host also allegedly exposed himself.

The alleged behaviour spanned a 15-year period.

Montreal makeup artist comes forward

The one person who did agree to having his name published was hair and makeup artist Marco Berardini, who took to Twitter on Wednesday after telling La Presse about alleged unwanted touching and harassment.

He said he went public after dozens of women spoke out against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape and harassment.

He thanked actress Rose McGowan in particular for giving him the strength to come forward.

"Sexual assault can happen to all genders and it has to stop!," wrote Berardini, a Montreal native and Los Angeles-based artist.

When contacted by CBC, Berardini recounted three alleged encounters that left him feeling shaken and "anxious."

He said he first met Salvail an event in 2003, when Berardini was in his early 20s.

"He was already very pushy at the event in front of people which I guess I was really shocked about. It was more flirting…I thought, 'He's just one of those really pushy guys.' I thought he was harmless."

At the end of the night, Berardini said Salvail offered him a ride home.

I had never met anyone like that before.- Marco Berardini, hair and makeup artist

"The car ride was weird, but not weird enough that I would consider not working with him. I thought he got the message," Berardini told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "He crosses the line and then he pulls back. That's what's really hard. You're like, 'Oh he's apologizing."

Berardini was hired to work for Salvail, and went to his house for a styling consultation.

Berardini said he remembers turning around while Salvail tried on clothes.

"That's where he made his first disgusting comment: 'You don't have to turn around because I want you to see.'"

Berardini said things escalated when Salvail came out of the bathroom wearing only underwear. Berardini said Salvail then changed into white see-through underwear and made inappropriate comments.

"Now I started to panic," Berardini said. 

"I was an intelligent 20-year-old but I was also very innocent, very sheltered…I had never met anyone like that before, let's put it that way."

He told Salvail he had to work early the next morning and left the apartment.

Berardini recalled another incident where, while the two were alone in a trailer, Salvail allegedly kept telling him how good-looking he was.

"It was non-stop. I just remember being berated and getting more and more anxious," Berardini said, adding that Salvail then touched himself and also ran his hand through Berardini's hair.

"I don't know what happened in that moment. I think I swatted it away and I said, 'You can't touch me. You're not allowed to touch me. It's not right."

Berardini said that's when everything changed.

"All of a sudden, he turned into another person. He blocked my way and said, 'I hate my hair and make-up, you're not that good. You're so bad at your job, you're not even that cute. I was doing it to flatter you.'"

Berardini said he remembers getting the cold shoulder while on set and never worked with Salvail since.

"I made sure we were never alone again."

Salvail 'deeply shaken' by allegations

Just hours after the story appeared, Salvail said in a statement on his Facebook page he was "deeply shaken" by the allegations.

"I approach this situation with a great deal of empathy for all those to whom I could have caused discomfort or any form of prejudice," he wrote in French. "I never intended to upset anyone."

Salvail, 48, said he has the support of family, colleagues and his spouse.

Berardini called Salvail's response "disgusting."

"I think it's an insult that he thinks that he can make a Facebook post.…It can't all be explained by, 'I'm sorry I didn't realize it was inappropriate.' Who doesn't realize that showing your penis to someone who's working with you is inappropriate? I'm just baffled," Berardini told CBC.

Loss of endorsements

The allegations have cost Salvail various endorsements — advertisements with grocery chain Metro have been
suspended, while tour company Transat A.T. Inc abruptly cancelled a contest that was supposed to fly fans into a live taping of one of Salvail's shows in Montreal.

Salvail, who has his own TV production company, is also a well-known media figure with his own show on Groupe V Media as well as being a staple on afternoon radio in the province.

Groupe V Media suspended his show En mode Salvail for an undetermined period and removed reference to it from its website Wednesday.

"Groupe V Media is also evaluating its business relationship with the Salvail & Co. production company," the network said, adding it won't comment further.

Radio-Canada also issued a statement Wednesday stating that although it never received any complaints about Salvail, "the allegations of misconduct against Mr. Salvail are serious and should be taken very seriously. Radio-Canada is re-evaluating its business relationship with the host and producer."

Meanwhile, the web page for Salvail's Éric et les Fantastiques radio show on Bell Media-owned Rouge FM also disappeared.

with files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak