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CBC memo provides details on Jian Ghomeshi firing timeline

10/31/2014 06:39 EDT | Updated 12/31/2014 05:59 EST
A top CBC executive has sent a memo to staff sharing some details of what senior staff knew about the conduct of former radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who is facing multiple allegations that he committed non-consensual violent acts against various women.

Heather Conway, vice-president of English Services, sent the email to staff Friday evening, saying the week had been "extraordinarily difficult for all of us."

Ghomeshi, 47, was fired on Sunday. The broadcaster initially provided little comment at the time, saying in a statement that CBC was "saddened" to announce its relationship with the Q host had come to an end.

In the days since, several women have made detailed allegations of violence to the Toronto Star, CBC and the Huffington Post – including allegations that he choked or punched them without their consent. 

In Friday’s note, Conway says that Ghomeshi advised the CBC this past spring that the Toronto Star “was looking into allegations by an ex-girlfriend that he had engaged in non-consensual 'rough sex.'"

The memo says that at that time, CBC executives were not contacted by the Toronto Star directly and "were not otherwise aware" of the allegations against Ghomeshi.

"When directly confronted, Jian firmly denied there was any truth to those allegations," the memo says.

Reporter reaches out to Q employee

The memo goes on to say that this past summer, a Q employee was sent a letter from a reporter asking about Ghomeshi and whether "his behaviour may have 'crossed over' into the workplace."

The memo says that with this information, CBC and the human resources team conducted an investigation and conducted interviews with employees and management. The memo doesn’t detail how many interviews were conducted or how long the investigation took, saying only that the investigation "determined that there were no complaints of this nature about Jian’s behaviour in the workplace."

At least one of the allegations against the former host reported in the media in recent days was from a former Q producer, who said he made sexual comments to her and cupped her buttocks. Conway’s memo did not touch on this allegation or how it was handled.  

The memo goes on to say that CBC "spoke to Jian at that time and asked him directly if there was any truth to the allegations. We were again assured by Jian that the allegations were untrue."

The memo says that Ghomeshi "was adamant" that if the Toronto Star published a report, he and his lawyers would be able to refute it and show that "he had done nothing wrong."

Conway said at that time, the Toronto Star didn’t publish the story and "based on Jian’s denial, we continued to believe Jian."

'Graphic evidence' presented last week

Conway’s memo notes that the situation changed for the CBC on Oct. 23, when CBC saw "for the first time, graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman."

The memo does not detail what that evidence was.

"At no time prior to last week was CBC aware that Jian had engaged in any activities which resulted in the physical injury of another person."

The memo says that after viewing the "graphic evidence," CBC decided that Ghomeshi’s conduct was a "fundamental breach" of CBC’s standards.

Further, the CBC memo says they believed Ghomeshi’s conduct was "inconsistent with the character of the public broadcaster, was fundamentally unacceptable for any employee, was likely to bring the reputation of his fellow employees and CBC into disrepute and could not be defended by CBC."

The CBC is "very concerned" by the additional allegations that have emerged since Oct. 26, Conway’s memo says, stating that the broadcaster is committed to a workplace free from violence and harassment.

Independent investigation

On Thursday, CBC announced that a third party will be hired to conduct an independent investigation.

Ghomeshi, 47, was a prominent figure who often represented the CBC in his capacity as host of Q, a flagship radio program. His show consistently performed well, drawing in large numbers of listeners and reaching across generations.

In recent days, several women have come forward anonymously to accuse the former host of violent, non-consensual sex acts. Two women, Lucy DeCouture and Reva Seth, have attached their name to the allegations of violent acts.

"He did take me by the throat and press me against the wall and choke me," DeCoutere told CBC News. "And he did slap me across the face a couple of times."

Another unnamed woman told CBC News he choked her and beat her with a belt. 

Toronto Police said Thursday they have received no complaints about Ghomeshi, and the former radio host denies the allegations against him.

Ghomeshi posted a detailed note on Facebook last weekend responding to his firing and denying any involvement in non-consensual, violent sexual acts. Ghomeshi detailed his sexual preferences in his statement and said he was only ever involved in acts that were "mutually agreed upon, consensual and exciting for both partners."

On Thursday, he issued a new statement, saying "'I want to thank you for your support and assure you that I intend to meet these allegations directly. I don’t intend to discuss this matter any further with the media."

Ghomeshi has launched a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC and is also grieving his dismissal through the union process. 

CBC president and CEO Hubert Lacroix also issued a public statement titled "Note to Canadians" late Friday, saying the allegations that have surfaced in the past week have left him "in shock, sadness, and some anger."

Lacroix's statement cited Ghomeshi's legal action, saying the lawsuit "limits what we have been able to say about the circumstances of his firing, but we will defend our action."

He reiterated the message that an outside company with "specific expertise to conduct an independent investigation" will be brought in. No timeframe for the investigation is provided in either memo, but Lacroix said the results will be shared with the CBC board, staff and Canadians.

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