As It Happens

'Enough is enough': Conservatives should cut ties with Rebel Media, says UCP leadership hopeful

On the heels of white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., Doug Schweitzer is calling out conservative politicians for "playing footsie" with Canada's far-right media.
Doug Schweitzer says the United Conservative Party should cut ties completely with Rebel Media. (Doug Schweitzer campaign)

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​On the heels of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Alberta's Doug Schweitzer is calling out conservative politicians for "playing footsie" with Canada's far-right media. 

In a tweet on Monday, the United Conservative Party leadership hopeful condemned the right-wing Rebel Media's coverage of the rally and called on his rival candidates to do the same.

Candidates Brian Jean and Jason Kenney have both denounced the rallies in which a counter-protester was killed, but neither has spoken out against Rebel Media, CBC Calgary reports.

Rebel leader Ezra Levant has issued a statement defending the outlet's coverage of the rallies and denouncing the Nazi chants and symbolism on display in Virginia as "racist" and "unpatriotic."

"The events in Charlottesville, and our coverage of them, have become fodder for our critics, who are desperate to paint us as racist or even neo-Nazi," Levant said.

"It's bizarre — I'm a proud Jew myself, and we have people of a variety of races and backgrounds working with us."

Still, Schweitzer says his vision for the UCP doesn't include the Rebel. He spoke with As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty. Here is part of their conversation:

What did you mean when you tweeted?

When the Rebel Media first came out, it was a bit of a fresh voice on issues, but over the last while it slowly evolved into a platform that allows for the advocation of, you know, white supremacy, hate, neo-Nazis, and that simply isn't good enough.

We're seeing this in that alt-right media in the United States and we can't let that come to Canada.

That's a serious allegation against the Rebel Media. What exactly have they done that you think advances white supremacy?

On that tape [of Rebel reporter Faith Goldy's live Charlottesville coverage] they were offering kind of soft support to kind of the white movement, and you know, soft support to the white supremacists, until that tragic event where someone died.

And when you look at that, along with other commentary and their participation in some of the events that are going on in the United States in particular, here in Canada we have to stand up and say: "No. Not here. Not in Canada."

And I'm tired of conservative politicians playing footsie with this organization. 

Was this past weekend, was Charlottesville and their coverage, a turning point? 

I think that lines have been crossed for a while now, but this is simply an illustration of, why do we have to put up with these platforms?

Free speech is one thing. I'm a big fan of free speech. But you don't have to give somebody a megaphone.

You did have, though, Jason Kenney and Brian Jean both tweeting out over the weekend ... What do you make of those tweets? Are they not enough?

No, I don't think that they are enough. It's one thing to condemn those events. Those are tragic events.

The main focus of my tweet, though, that I sent out over the weekend, was the fact that we can't allow these platforms that allow for the facilitation of hate to continue and be a part of it.

The alt-right has no room in our United Conservative Party here in Alberta.

What is that going to mean? What, no one gives any interviews to the Rebel Media at all from now on?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

The Rebel Media was not given accreditation for the United Nations COP22 climate conference in Marrakech in November and it was the Canadian Association of Journalists who came to their defence.

If Canadian Association of Journalists is willing to step up and defend The Rebel, isn't there a point to letting them carry on and continue to do political coverage with access to you?

No. You know what? They've crossed a line here in the last while and it's evolved even since then. It's to the point now that you don't need to participate in an organization that facilitates this. It's creating this toxic environment in our society.

When I was younger I didn't think that I'd have to come on and deal with racism and deal with this in my generation. But enough is enough. 

People who are staunch defenders of the Rebel Media, are they welcome within the United Conservatives?

If people want to advocate for hate or people want to advocate for divisive issues, you know what? There may be a different home for them.

You have been accused in some quarters of trying to take advantage of this weekend's news in Charlottesville. Is that fair?

No, this is just simply a proof point. When people are paying attention to what's happening and the type of coverage that the Rebel Media is providing to these organizations. It's simply not good enough. And this is simply a time where people can reflect on what platforms are available and where they're getting their information.