As It Happens

Why conservative pundit Brian Lilley is parting ways with Rebel Media

One of the founding members of Rebel Media has parted ways with the far-right media outlet over its coverage of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va..
Right-wing commentator Brian Lilley has parted ways with the far-right media outlet Rebel Media. (Brian Lilley/Facebook )

Story transcript

One of the founding members of Rebel Media has parted ways with the far-right media outlet, in part due to its controversial coverage of the weekend's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va..

Brian Lilley, a long-time conservative pundit who co-founded The Rebel with his former Sun News Network colleague Ezra Levant, announced his departure on Facebook Monday.

The Rebel has recently come under fire for reporter Faith Goldy's live coverage of Saturday's events.

In a livestream on Saturday, Goldy criticizes Charlottesville police for shutting down the white nationalist rally while failing to crack down on the counter-protests. Her footage then captures the moment that a car slammed into counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Goldy posted a video for The Rebel defending her coverage, saying she was just reporting the facts.

Lilley is himself a social conservative, but says Goldy's presence at a rally where men sported swastikas and shouted Nazi slogans crossed a line.

He spoke with As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty. Here is part of their conversation.

In the post that you wrote about why you decided to leave the Rebel, you say that it's suffering from a lack of "editorial and behavioural judgement that if left unchecked will destroy it and those around it." What do you mean by that?

I believe in more voices, not less, in the media. It could be an important voice, but editorial judgement that sees people go as activist journalists ... to a United The Right rally that is obviously just a front for a white supremacist rally left me concerned.

That was just the last straw for me. 

Did it cross a line, in your view, where it began, the commentary, to show sympathy for white supremacy?

I have not seen all of the footage, but I've seen enough, and enough of the commentary to say: OK, I can't be a part of that.  We're all responsible for our own personal reputation or our own brand, if you will, and all of us in the public eye sometimes have to practice hygiene.

A white supremacist wearing symbols of the Traditionalist Worker Party reacts to pepper spray at a rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

And by that, are you saying that your brand would be tainted by staying with The Rebel?

Yeah, I still host a nightly talk show on a radio station in Ottawa on 580 CFRA. I write columns for Sun Media and elsewhere. I have to think of the bigger picture.

I was essentially, by the end, a freelancer with The Rebel that would do one video a day. I know the title said co-founder, but we had a split on that about a year or so ago.

There's been a drift for a while and a difference in focus. I've been describing it as when you form a band with your buddies in high school and you just want to play rock and roll.

Well, I want to keep playing rock and roll, three chords and the truth, but they've decided they want to play polka. I don't want to play in a polka band.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of Heather Heyer sits in Charlottesville, Va. Rebel Media captures the moment a car slammed into protesters and killed Heyer. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

I'm curious about the timing because earlier in the year, I mean, you're of course aware of the Gavin McInnes issue, where he went to Israel and he filmed a rant that I think went up on the website under the title at first "10 Things I Hate About Jews" and then "10 Things I Hate About Israel." Why wasn't that the line that was crossed at the time?

We were just getting assurances from people — we're fixing things, we're watching. Well, you know, I'm sorry, the lines keep getting crossed. I have to say no at a certain point. 

Should I have gone earlier? Maybe. But I've decided to go now.

Who is their audience now, The Rebel? What's it become?

People want that voice out there. They're tired of a media that is in this country, let's say, giving a free pass to Justin Trudeau way too often. Or in the United States, during the election, they were in the tank for Hillary Clinton.

So people look for something else. They've looked to The Rebel. Will they continue to? I don't know. 

Like I say, I think that they've got to fix these problems or their problems will destroy them. But they're no longer my problems.

Brian Lilley, left, and Ezra Levant, right, worked together at the short-lived Sun News Network before launching Rebel Media together. (YouTube)

Any word from Ezra Levant?

Yep, we have spoken.

What did you say?

I'll leave that between us at the moment

Was it confrontational?

It started out one way and finished another, and I think you'll be able to guess.

Doesn't sound like it ended too well.