Sunday, December 06, 2009
Fiction Posing as Fact
The other day it was noted that Christie Blatchford had her facts wrong. She drew conclusions that fit her narrative, but she had her facts wrong.
This morning, we are treated to some more fiction from yet another opinion writer, who couches his narrative in what seems to be fact, except it isn't.
Glenn Pearson, MP from London, who is probably the most respected MP in the House is mentioned in the story. He read it this morning and was quick to rebut Persichilli's assertions.
Here is his post:
I woke up early this morning to a shock. In the news, I read a headline claiming that MPs were planning Michael Ignatieff’s early retirement. And then I read my own name mentioned as one of those who took part in a planned meeting at the Chateau Laurier to discuss how to move the Liberal leader out of the way. The piece, by Angelo Persichilli, claims that Bob Rae called a special meeting of Liberal MPs following a retirement party for Liberal senator Jerry Grafstein to discuss moving Mr. Ignatieff on. I have no idea how Mr. Perichilli came to such a conclusion.
For the record, let me state that Carolyn Bennett, Bob Rae, Ruby Dhalla and I did meet on the night mentioned. This often happens in the evenings following parliamentary sessions as politicians and senators seek to wind down following hectic days. On the night Perichilli mentions for example, other MPs and senators were in the lounge, though not at our table. Someone was singing at the piano, the place was packed and noisy. The only part of this meeting that was planned was between Ms. Bennett and myself. She has been to Sudan with my wife and I as a part of two special teams we took in the last couple of years and has made significant contributions regarding public health, rural clinics and need to build better infrastructure for health in that troubled country. We had agreed to meet to discuss my upcoming trip to the region in a few weeks’ time. Mr. Rae and Ms. Dhalla were not part of that invite.
Partway through the discussion, Mr. Rae did appear in the lounge but had no idea we were there. It was me that waved to him to see if he wanted to join us. About 15 minutes after that, Ms. Dhalla walked in and she was welcomed to join us as well. Talk of Sudan ended as we spoke of some of the speeches and persons present at the Grafstein dinner. As always on such occasions, things got around to politics. Angelo Persichilli claims in his piece that I stated Mr. Ignatieff was losing the trust of the party. This is profoundly untrue. I did comment that he maintained the loyalty of caucus but that Mr. Rae was a trusted performer in the House. I also stated that with Mr. Ignatieff traveling the country more, it would be good to see Bob take on more responsibility for helping us as the official opposition to hold the government to account in the House, especially during Question Period.
Where Mr. Persichilli got the idea that a discussion was held to seek the removal of Mr. Goodale from his responsibility in the House I have no idea. Not once – nada – was this discussed. In fact, we think we’ve done better in the House lately and that Ralph Goodale has been an important part of elevating that performance. And for Persichilli to claim that it wasn’t an isolated meeting is totally unfounded. It was isolated and the only planning was between Ms. Bennett and myself re: Sudan.
I have never met Angelo Persichilli, nor do I know what he looks like. But I do occasionally hold discussions with a few journalists, some who are friends. If they received such information, they would clarify our positions before writing the story. Angelo Persichilli didn’t provide that opportunity and got his story wrong. It’s just the way everything has been going in Ottawa these days, as people rush to the lowest common denominator. I have sought to keep a low profile during these last three years, in large part because of situations like this. Mr. Perichilli has it wrong and he has done proper politics a great disfavour. Our discussion about Mr. Ignatieff did cover his trouble in the polls and how we trust he’ll do better, but the rest of the talk was about how we could help him in the House and how we could take on more of the load. Mr. Rae, Ignatieff’s competitor for past leadership bouts, called no such meeting and I feel the sorriest for him because he neither led the discussion (no one did) and he affirmed that Michael Ignatieff has the loyalty of caucus and that was a good thing.
It’s hard for some of us to try to move politics to a higher level in Ottawa, but with journalism like this it’s almost impossible. At least check it out with us to make sure you have your story straight. I’ve been as honest as I can be in Ottawa and, Mr. Perichilli, you’ve got this one wrong. And Michael, I’m sorry this happened at all. We’re all fully there behind you and saddened by the pain this must cause.
Carolyn Bennett also rejected the story this morning.
This pseudo-journalism, (opinion told in such a way as to twist or distort facts) is helpful to no one, not the least of which is the electorate. It feeds cynicism and that is bad for democracy.
Blatchford and Persichilli are hardly retiring when it comes to their political leaning and that is fair enough, but distorting the truth has become far too common place and we deserve more than this. Had he written, 'X MP's were spotted at Y lounge and in my opinion, here is what they might have been discussing'...fine. Obviously no opinion writer would do that but you get my drift.
Thanks to Glen Pearson for setting the record straight.