Just in case you missed it, during the election campaign I decided I could not take the abuse and partisanship masquerading as journalism from Mike Duffy. Over the years, I have been on the Mike Duffy show a lot. We usually get along just fine. He and his wife have been kind to me. Once they helped me through an airport when I was still using a cane and having a lot of problems before my hip replacement. So it has never been personal...until this 2008 campaign.
I simply could not believe the outrageous introduction he gave to an interview with Peter MacKay. I was waiting to follow Peter. We had just concluded a debate at St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish and the CTV satellite truck was up from Halifax to allow for an interview hook up with Mike Duffy in Ontario. The logistics of such interviews, known as “double enders,” are a bit surrealistic. The interviewee does not see the interviewer. You just try to stare straight into the camera lens and hope the earpiece stays in place so you can hear the questions. I had been equipped with my lapel microphone and earpiece to be able to hear Mike’s questions. As I waited my turn, I listened in horror to the most biased introduction I have ever heard. In introducing Peter MacKay, Duffy launched into an attack of my debate performance. This was more than bizarre since I had just won a debate before about 800 people. He said, words to the effect of “Peter, let’s just say you were you, and Ms. May “(heavy on the drawn out sarcasm) “was Ms. May.” While saying he didn’t want to use the words “off the wall,” which, of course, he just had, he went on to describe my statements in the debate as “bizarre.”
I decided I wasn’t going to let him get away with it. The pro-Harper bias in his programming was routine, but this was over the top. The ensuing television is pretty funny in hindsight. You can still find it on YouTube: “Elizabeth May versus Duffy.” That night we looked for it on the CTV website, but it was never posted. We found it on the Macleans site and later heard it was on Youtube.
Far more egregious was the role Mike Duffy played in running the out-takes of Stephane Dion’s interview with ATV host Steve Murphy. The normal latitude for asking for a re-ask, and a chance to get a taped interview right, is generally quite generous. Having told Dion he could seek a clarification and then move to re-ask the question, it was outrageous that CTV should have chosen to violate that trust and run the tape. Run the tape they did. Over and over and over on the last weekend of the campaign.
Polling suggests that the use of that tape and its energetic hyping by Mike Duffy may have cost the Liberals 15 seats. It is not exactly journalism. By the end of the campaign I was thinking that Mike Duffy covering Stephen Harper was the Canadian equivalent of what Fox News was to the Bush Administration.
And now, without shame apparently, Stephen Harper has given Mike Duffy his reward. He is one of 18 Conservatives appointed to stack the Senate in a time period when the work of Parliament has been shut down. Closing Parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote is the kind of anti-democratic move that journalists should be exposing. Unfortunately, due to concentration of media ownership (CTV, the Globe and Mail and the whole host of CFRA, CFRB, CKNW, and so on, are all owned by the same conglomerate, while Global TV, The National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province, Victoria Times Colonist, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, and more are all owned by Canwest) most of the news media is carrying forward the Harper government line. The news coverage has concentrated more on the question of cracks in the coalition than in exposing the anti-democratic nature of Harper’s actions.
After my debate with Mike Duffy, live and on air, I was pleased I had objected to his bias. I was glad I had done it nicely, still expressing personal fondness for Mike. But I told my daughter afterwards, “Well, I guess I will never be on the Mike Duffy Show again.”
It turns out, I was right.