Why Patrick Brown Shouldn't Be Suing CTV

Last time I wrote about Patrick Brown, it was to laud the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario for their swift action in dismissing a leader who has a history of sexual misconduct. It was my contention that regardless of the criminality of his behavior, which has yet to be proven, the nature of his interactions with young, female staff disqualified him from the leadership of a provincial party.

Of course, he was quick to contradict the allegations, at the time saying, “I will defend myself as hard as I can, with all the means at my disposal.” Afterward, he made his intention to stay on as party leader clear.

That all changed in a matter of hours, when a mass exodus of Brown’s senior staff and a meeting of his party caucus forced him to step down. He made a second statement:

“These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear. However, defeating [Ontario Premier] Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual. For this reason, after consulting with caucus, friends and family I have decided to step down as Leader of the Ontario PC Party. I will remain on as an MPP while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations.” (via CBC)

He remained on as an independent, and many Ontarians and Canadian politicos anticipated that Brown’s saga would play out in court after a quiet exit from public life.

For those unfamiliar with Canadian politics, provinces are lead by premiers, who are an equivalent to governors of American states. Ontario is the most populous and economically prosperous of the Canadian provinces – home to 39% of both the population and GDP – and so its leadership is no small matter. Patrick Brown was, to borrow a now-popular phrase, morally unfit.

That is unless you ask Patrick Brown. 

Now the “emotionally devastated” former leader is filing an $8 million suit against CTV, the network that broke the story about his misconduct. The suit names various members of CTV staff, and charges that the network “falsely, maliciously, unfairly and irresponsibly broadcast” stories which led to Brown’s downfall.

The suit goes on to say that Brown, “continues to suffer from stress, anxiety, hurt, humiliation and embarrassment and was and is emotionally devastated. The swift demolition of his personal and professional reputation on national television left Mr. Brown in a complete state of shock and disbelief. Mr. Brown did not want to leave his home. He felt his world was crashing in on him. Shunned in the political community, Mr. Brown was abandoned by his campaign team, forced to resign as leader of the PC Party, ejected from the Tory caucus, and cast aside from his political party.”

It then alleges that CTV news interfered in the democratic process because the story broke in an election year.

Most troublingly, the suit alleges that one of Brown’s accusers was “was smiling and giggly as she told a co-worker friend that she had kissed Mr. Brown and that she was adamant that nothing else happened.”

Alright, let’s go down this crapstack one block at a time.

Patrick Brown’s emotional well-being is not the responsibility of CTV News, nor is it the responsibility of the women who accused him. When Mr. Brown chose a public life, he forfeited his right to control what was said about him in the public sphere. He can be outraged, he can defend himself, he can refute the charges, but he does not get to say that it hurt his feelings.

The hurt feelings argument also hinges on the contention that CTV filed false reports about Brown’s conduct with the two women. However, there is no evidence to indicate that the report was false, and CTV was well within its rights as a news organization to go public with multiple accounts of sexual misconduct against a prominent public figure.

Much ado was being made of the fact that one of the accusers described herself as being “in high school” when one of the alleged incidents took place and has since changed her story, admitting she was 19 when it took place.

To my mind, the recollection of a specific age at the time of sexual impropriety is immaterial so long as she was above the age of consent, which is 16 in Ontario. Her age has no bearing on what took place, her role as a subordinate most certainly does.

Whether she was giggly the next day also has no bearing on the case. She might have been experiencing any range of emotions, but her trauma or lack thereof does not impact the allegation that Patrick Brown is the kind of leader who tries to sleep with younger staffers. Who leverages his position as leader to influence, if not prey on, young women in his employ. 

Finally, there’s the absurd notion that honest reporting interfered with the democratic process. The press is entitled to publish stories which it has vetted and judged to be ready for public consumption. If those stories prove to be false, then it is certainly incumbent on the news organization to retract, and to take the hit to their reputation. This is part and parcel of the democratic process.

Yes, Patrick Brown’s dismissal landed Ontarians with the Conservative leadership of Doug Ford, the brother of the former crack-smoking mayor of Toronto, who is arguably a worse alternative. He also has a clear record on sexual misconduct.

Patrick Brown’s suit is the kind of cry-baby entitlement endemic to the outgoing generation of men in politics. If he wasn’t up for the scrutiny, he should have stayed in the private sector.

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