As It Happens

Hello? 6 times As It Happens got hung up on

As It Happens hosts are chosen for their tenacity and doggedness — qualities some of our guests find off-putting, to say the least.

Politicians, warlords and cult members have all gotten fed up with our questions

Not everyone enjoys talking on the phone with As It Happens hosts. (Sanseven/Shutterstock )

As It Happens hosts are chosen for their tenacity and doggedness — two qualities some of our guests find off-putting, to say the least.

In our 50 years on the air, we've held the powerful to account, and that includes politicians, dictators, cult members and even doctors.

Here's a look back at a few of the times we've tried to grill our guests, only to be met with the sound of a click followed by a ringtone.

Calling a dictator in the middle of an attempted coup

Idi Amin, former president of Uganda, points a finger during an outdoor rally. (Getty Images)

When explosions and gunfire rocked the Ugandan capital of Kampala in February 1979, there was rampant speculation that dictator Idi Amin had been overthrown.

So host Barbara Frum called up the Ugandan presidential palace in hopes of reaching the despot.

An unidentified man, who some producers suspect may have been Amin himself, answered the phone, told Frum the takeover was a rumour and proceeded to rant about conquering the British Empire.

After demanding she preface her questions with "May I know?" the man erupted in cackling laughter and hung up the phone.

When Frum called back, the same man answered again and insisted she had the wrong number.

Manson Family member calls Barbara Frum 'inadequate'

This Dec. 22, 1975, photo shows Sandra Good, former roommate of Lynette Fromme and follower of convicted murderer Charles Manson. (Walt Zeboski/Associated Press)

When Manson Family member Lynette Fromme was arrested for the attempted assassination of U.S. president Gerald Ford, As It Happens called up Fromme's friend and fellow cult member Sandra Good.

But Good didn't want to talk about Fromme. Instead, she tried to use the September 1975 interview to prosthelytize about the environment.

When Frum pressed her for details about Fromme, Good accused her of asking "ignorant" questions and called her "inadequate as a reporter."

"Are you a man or a woman?" Good asked.

"I'm a man," Frum joked.

"You are a woman," Good said, "because you reflect a woman's fear."

Good warned Frum not to interrupt her again, then said there would be "a wave of assassins, killing those who are killing the environment."

When Frum tried to interject with more questions, the cult member hung up.

Three months later, Good was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sending death threats to 170 corporate executives.

Making Chris Alexander late for Question Period

Former immigration minister Chris Alexander hung up on Carol Off, then sparred with As It Happens on Twitter, before calling back. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

In June 2014, then-immigration minister Chris Alexander, facing a series of tough questions about how many Syrian refugees had made it into the country, hung up on host Carol Off, insisting he was late for Question Period.

"You must tell me please before you go, how many of the 200 government-sponsored refugees that you've committed to bring to Canada are here in Canada now?" Off asked.

"Why is that the only question that interests you?" the minister replied.

"Because you won't answer it," Off said.

This exchange continues back and forth like that for awhile, until Alexander finally says: "I'll phone you back and talk to you more about it, but I find your line of questioning…"

And the line went dead.

Following the abrupt end to the interview, As It Happenstweeted that it was the first time a Canadian minister hung up on the show. Alexander then sent a tweet of his own, saying it was the first time a journalist had made him late to Question Period.

He then called back into the studio to continue the interview.

'Suck it up, buttercup'

Bobby Kaufmann hung up on As It Happens before he could fully defend his 'Suck it up, buttercup' bill. (Laura Brolis/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia/Charlie Neibergall/AP)

An American lawmaker who thinks college students are too sensitive turned out to be quite the snowflake himself.

In November 2016, Iowa state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann introduced the "Suck it up, buttercup" bill to cut the budgets of universities he believed were "coddling" students upset by the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

When Off asked Kaufmann for examples of this "coddling," he said he'd heard of a professor who was "actively discussing the possibility of bringing in a pony ... so that people could use it to feel better about the election."

"Can I ask you where did that happen?" Off asked.

"I'm not prepared to name names right now. I'm doing an investigation," he replied.

"I'm not asking you to name names — just where did it happen?"

"OK," he said, and then immediately hung up.

When we called him back, he said simply: "I don't speak to media outlets with an agenda."

When Thom Yorke ditched us for Obama

Thom Yorke talks to reporters at the UN Climate Change Conference on Dec. 18, 2009, in Copenhagen. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

When world leaders gathered in Copenhagen in 2009 to sign a new international climate change agreement, As It Happens reached out to Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who was blogging from the scene.

Producers worked hard to arrange the high-profile interview, but alas, when the appointed minutes arrived, Yorke had other priorities.

"Hello Thom Yorke, are you there?" Off asked.

"Yeah, can you ring me back? Obama's just walking past," Yorke replies before hanging up.

At eight seconds, it's believed to be the shortest interview ever aired on As It Happens.

We weren't able to reach him again.

Doctor, doctor, give me the news

Dr. Harold Bornstein, personal physician to Donald Trump arrives at his New York City office on Dec. 15, 2015. (Joe Marino/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

You could say our interview with Trump's former physician Dr. Harold Bornstein was "astonishingly" short.

In a May 2 interview with CNN, Bornstein admitted that Trump himself dictated the famous 2015 letter that described the then-presidential candidate as having "astonishingly excellent" blood pressure, and predicted he would be the "healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

Off called Bornstein that same day to ask some follow-up questions.

"Hello, is this Dr. Bornstein?" she asked.

"Who's this?" he replied.

"This is Carol Off. I'm a reporter from Canada. From CBC."


With files from Mitchell Thompson and Alison Broverman


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