The National·The National Today

#MeToo: There's a lot more than Weinstein and Freeman going on

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Boris Johnson duped into 18-minute prank call with Russian duo posing as Armenian PM; a group of Inuit students has scored what may be the best summer job in Canada; #MeToo affected many more men than Weinstein this week.

Newsletter: A closer look at Friday's notable stories

Film producer Harvey Weinstein, right, with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman inside Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment in New York City on Friday. (Steven Hirsch/Reuters)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to police today to face sexual assault allegations in NYC, just one of the powerful men affected by #MeToo-related news this week 
  • A group of Inuit students has scored what could be the best summer job in Canada
  • U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson duped into an 18-minute call with Russian pranksters pretending to be the new Prime Minister of Armenia
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here

In the wake of Weinstein

The #MeToo movement exploded over Harvey Weinstein, but it won't end with him — even as the former Hollywood mogul faces criminal charges for alleged assaults of two women.

Yesterday, it was another boldface name, actor Morgan Freeman, who faced accusations of harassment and inappropriate behaviour from eight female colleagues. (The 80-year-old Oscar winner quickly issued a blanket apology to "anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected," although that wasn't enough to save his marketing deals with Visa and Vancouver Transit.)

Film producer Harvey Weinstein leaves the 1st Precinct in Manhattan, NY, on Friday after turning himself in to police to face charges. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
And the list of prominent men now facing consequences for their past behaviour towards women continues to grow.

Nate Boulton, an Iowa state senator and a would-be Democratic Party nominee for governor, suspended his campaign yesterday amid allegations from three female lawyers — two of them his ex-law school classmates — of groping and frottage.  

Celebrity chef Mario Batali has been dropped by his own restaurant group following the news that he is now under police investigation for allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour dating back over two decades.

Actor Morgan Freeman attends the 2018 PEN Literary Gala in New York on Tuesday. He is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Earlier in the week, Kunihiko Takahashi, mayor of the Tokyo suburb of Komae, announced his intention to resign following accusations of touching and sexual harassment brought forward by four municipal employees.  

Rev. Paige Patterson, a longtime U.S. evangelical leader, was removed from his position as president emeritus of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, after a former divinity student told the Washington Post that he counselled her to "forgive" a classmate whom she alleges raped her and to not report the assault to the police.

In Israel, some worshippers are walking out of synagogues that play the music of the late Shlomo Carlebach, who gained international fame as the "singing rabbi" in the 1960s, and more recently has been identified as a serial sexual offender.

Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Nate Boulton has been accused of touching women inappropriately. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz this week found himself disinvited from a scheduled summer talk at a Wyoming library, in the wake of misconduct allegations that surfaced at an Australian writers' festival.

And 10 former McDonald's employees in nine U.S. cities have filed sexual harassment complaints against supervisors at the fast food chain. They say they were propositioned, touched, and subjected to lewd comments and even indecent exposure on a regular basis while the company did nothing.

Laws are changing too.

The French government has passed legislation that will give rape victims under the age of 18 a full 30 years to make a complaint — a decade more than before. It also enacted on-the-spot fines for men who harass women in the streets with whistles and catcalls.

American chef Mario Batali holds a tray of pasta ahead of a state dinner at the White House in October 2016. He has been dropped by his restaurant group following news that he is under police investigation for allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate adopted a bill that will hold lawmakers personally liable for monetary settlements with staffers and congressional employees who have been sexually harassed. The bill also does away with requirements that said anyone bringing forward a complaint had to undergo counselling and participate in an arbitration process.

Yet there are those who think that some of the men who have been accused of inappropriate behaviour by women deserve a chance to redeem themselves.

The cast of Arrested Development gave a controversial interview to the New York Times this week. Three of the male members defended co-star Jeffrey Tambor — who has been accused of onset tirades and inappropriate remarks — even as Jessica Walter, who plays the matriarch of the Bluth clan, teared up at the memory of a tongue-lashing delivered by her TV husband.

And comedian Sarah Silverman told GQ magazine she thinks the idea that men who have admitted past transgressions — like her friend Louis C.K. and former senator Al Franken — should be "excommunicated forever" is wrong-headed.

Sarah Silverman says she thinks the idea that men who have admitted past transgressions should be 'excommunicated forever' is wrong-headed. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Hulu)
"The important thing is that they are forever changed," she said. "And if that's the case, I don't see any reason why they can't continue being artists. ... There are people that come and say, 'I'm guilty of these things, and I'm wrong, and I want to be changed from this.'"

An opinion that appears to put the outspoken Silverman in the minority.

David Common on assignment

CBC's David Common travelled to Trenton, Ont., to see how Inuit summer students are being trained to staff the Canadian Coast Guard rescue boat station in Rankin Inlet.

A Canadian Coast Guard rescue boat and a Canadian Armed Forces Griffon helicopter conduct a training exercise in the Bay of Quinte near Trenton, Ont. (David Common/CBC) (David Common/CBC)
They've won the summer job jackpot, maybe the best student employment in the entire country.

Eight young Inuit are about to crew the Coast Guard's first-ever professional rescue station in Canada's vast North.

When we tagged along on their training, Allison Baetz carefully controlled a high-speed, open-top rescue boat as a bright yellow military helicopter hovered metres above. Once it left, and we could hear, Baetz was smiling ear to ear.

"It was incredible — not a lot of summer student jobs get to say they had a helicopter right above them where you could almost touch it," she told me.

The team was doing their training on the waters off Lake Ontario near Trenton before heading up to Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, a centuries-old community near the top of Hudson's Bay.

Ciera Lee-Kooneeliusie, left, of Pangnirtung, NU, and Allison Baetz of Inuvik, NU, are two of the Inuit students hired to crew the Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet this summer. (David Common/CBC)
I once passed not that far away from the community, on a Coast Guard ship that was helping to search for the Franklin Expedition ships that were lost in the 1800s in Arctic waters. Back in Franklin's time, rescue parties came from England and the Inuit gave advice on where to find the wrecks. But their message was ignored.

Turns out, the Inuit were right. The ships were very close to where they'd always told searchers to look.

Today, the Coast Guard is recognizing that the Inuit know their waters better than even the professional maritime force.

Last summer, if a rescue was needed, it was often dispatched from the more populous south — at great expense and distance. This summer, help is a lot closer, and it relies on Inuit knowledge of these waters. A lesson that's taken some time to register.

  • WATCH: David Common's feature on the Inuit team being trained to staff the Rankin Inlet rescue boat station, airing tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online.

A Griffon helicopter hovers over a Coast Guard rescue boat during training on the Bay of Quinte near Trenton, Ont.

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From Russia with malice

Boris Johnson needs a better gatekeeper. Or maybe just call-display.

Yesterday, a pair of Russian pranksters released an 18-minute tape of a phone conversation with the British foreign secretary, recorded earlier this month, in which one of them pretended to be Nikol Pashinyan, the recently named Prime Minister of Armenia.

An 18-minute tape of Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson being duped by Russian phone pranksters Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov - better known as Lexus and Vovan - was released Thursday. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Johnson's office has confirmed that the recording is real, but said that he quickly twigged to the hoax and ended the call.

The audio evidence suggests otherwise.

The Russian duo, Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov — better known as Lexus and Vovan — seemed to have little trouble getting the famously loquacious former mayor of London to discuss a number of highly sensitive matters, including the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer.

"Are you sure that Putin ordered to poison Skripals?" the faux-PM asks in heavily accented English.

"We're pretty sure … we're almost, like, 100 per cent sure," Johnson responds.

The pranksters, who evidently called shortly before the real Pashinyan met with the Russian president on May 14, asked the U.K. foreign secretary's advice on dealing with the ex-KGB agent.

"Be clear with him about your ambitions … but you should stress that this does not amount to a threat to his interests," Johnson counsels.

Johnson thought he was speaking to Nikol Pashinyan, seen here waving to supporters on May 8 after he was named Prime Minister of Armenia. (Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images)
The stilted conversation carries on with observations about the large number of Russian billionaires in the U.K. ("You throw a stone in Kensington and you hit an oligarch," says the foreign secretary.) And some unlikely flattery over a prize-winning, naughty limerick that Johnson wrote about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan back in 2016. ("It was balls!" says the prankster.)

And for a while it sounds like Johnson is deeply intrigued by an insight that the fake Armenian PM claims he gleaned from Putin — that Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party leader, is on the Kremlin's payroll.

"Thank-you very much for that interesting tidbit," Johnson says. "Let me keep that confidential."

The conversation ends abruptly a couple of minutes later, when Johnson wordlessly hangs up the phone.

Over the past few years, Lexus and Vovan, a pair of popular 30-something comedians, have had remarkable success in reaching important people on the telephone.

Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov, left, and Alexei Stolyarov, also known as Vovan and Lexus, at the release of their book in Moscow on Sept. 14, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)
Elton John was one of their first high-profile victims, tricked into thinking he was having a conversation about gay rights with Vladimir Putin.

Turkey's Erdogan, and president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, have also been duped.

As have several prominent American politicians. Last July, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a call from the duo posing as Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and found himself discussing a new "biofuel" supposedly made from pig manure and home-brewed moonshine.  

In late December, Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, thought she was having a conversation with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and ended up expressing some opinions on Russian meddling in the wholly fictional country of Binomo.

Senator John McCain and Congresswoman Maxine Waters are also said to have been past Lexus and Vovan victims. Recordings of those conversations were released — and widely reported on in Russia — but some question their authenticity.

Elton John, seen here at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on May 19, was one of the first high-profile targets of pranksters Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov. (Chris Radburn/Getty Images)
The apparent ease the pair has in reaching and tricking whomever they want has led some critics to suggest that they might have ties to Russian intelligence. It's an accusation the duo flatly denies.

"We work for ourselves, for nobody else," Stolyarov told the Guardian newspaper in a 2016 interview.

But in an interview with the Moscow correspondent for The Times of London yesterday, Lexus suggested the U.K. foreign secretary was something of a soft target.

"We would have liked to call Katy Perry, but it was easier to get Johnson's number," he said.

Quote of the moment

"Everything was destroyed. Lots of blood in the floor. Many people were screaming. They were trying to run out from the restaurant. There was a guy with glass inside his eyes."

- Rafael Concaceicao, a witness to last night's bombing at crowded Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., that injured 15 people, three of them seriously. Police say there are no indications that the attack was terrorism or a hate crime, and are on the lookout for two male suspects.

Police are searching for two suspects, caught on security camera, who they say fled the scene immediately after the blast at an Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Ont. (Peel Regional Police/Twitter)

What The National is reading

  • The many zigzags of a ship caught up in Trump's trade war with China (CBC)
  • Google and Facebook accused of breaking new EU privacy law (BBC)
  • Assange's refuge in Ecuadorian embassy 'in jeopardy' (CNN)
  • Nipah virus outbreak in India 'definitely a concern,' Canadian expert says (CBC)
  • Two former French spies under formal investigation for treason (France 24)
  • Why Beijing isn't Marxist enough for China's radical millennials (South China Morning Post)
  • Army sergeant guilty in parachute plot to kill his wife (The Times)
  • A new search for the Loch Ness Monster, via DNA (Associated Press)

Today in history

May 25, 1988: Toronto mayor Art Eggleton sweats to '80s pop

You think today's politicians are embarrassing? Witness Ontario Premier David Peterson, dressed in a red track suit and doing some sort of mutant Mashed Potato to the strains of James Brown's I Feel Good. Or Toronto's heavy-breathing Mayor Art Eggleton — in a white track suit — as he struggles to complete the requisite 15 minutes of physical activity for ParticipACTION's annual exercise challenge. No sign of Hal and Joanne from Body Break, sadly.

Canada's fitness movement: Eggleton sweats to '80s pop

Digital Archives

33 years ago
Politicians join in a nation-wide exercise competition. 1:54

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Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.