POLITICS

Rick Mercer doesn't plan to bring up Jian Ghomeshi at Giller or on his show

11/04/2014 02:02 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - CBC-TV personality Rick Mercer says he doesn't plan to acknowledge the Jian Ghomeshi controversy as host of next week's Scotiabank Giller Prize gala, nor does he think he'll mention it on his own show.

Mercer replaced the scandal-plagued Ghomeshi as host of next Monday's Giller literary event in the wake of allegations of abuse by the former "Q" radio star.

The comedian says the Giller is "about celebrating Canadian literature and it would do the entire industry a disservice if it got sidelined by anything else."

"Obviously these are unique circumstances, the fact that I'm hosting is a unique circumstance, but it's not going to get in the way of me doing my job, which is celebrating these authors," Mercer said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"It's not about the host. That's one thing I know. We're there for one reason and one reason only, and that's what it's about."

Mercer said he plans to make it a "fun" night with comedy bits — and he doesn't think a literary awards show is the appropriate place to mention the Ghomeshi case.

As many as nine women have alleged in media reports that they experienced "abusive behaviour" by Ghomeshi. The radio personality has said he has engaged in rough sex, but that it was always consensual. He has vowed to meet the allegations "directly."

Mercer said he thinks the Ghomeshi story should "absolutely" be discussed in other circumstances, but not on "The Rick Mercer Report."

One reason, he said, is that "this is partially a CBC" story and he has faith in an independent investigation by the public broadcaster. He also noted his show is heavy on humour and does not have a panel discussion on current events.

On the episode that was set to air Tuesday, for instance, "It's nine minutes of me cod jigging with Alan Doyle and talking about growing up in Petty Harbour and then visiting a fall fair in Northern Ontario, so that's the show," said Mercer.

"I do a rant every week and nine times out of 10 that's about federal politics, and I think my opinion on this subject is exactly like everyone else's opinion.

"Everyone is very upset and we hope that anyone who is involved finds peace at the end of the day."

Ghomeshi was let go by the CBC last month. He has said he was fired because of the risk that his sex life would become public "as a result of a campaign of false allegations" motivated by his "sexual behaviour." He has launched a lawsuit against the public broadcaster.

Toronto police have since launched an investigation after three women came forward with accusations.

The Giller gala will award $100,000 to a fiction writer and will air on CBC-TV.

The finalists are Sean Michaels for "Us Conductors," Miriam Toews for "All My Puny Sorrows," David Bezmozgis with "The Betrayers," Frances Itani for "Tell," Heather O'Neill's "The Girl Who Was Saturday Night," and Padma Viswanathan for "The Ever After of Ashwin Rao."

Mercer said he interviewed the six finalists on Monday and enjoyed learning about "the process" of writing. He joked that he's "read the Coles Notes" on the nominated books, adding he has a tremendous amount of respect for the writers as well as Jack Rabinovitch, the founder of the Giller.

While Mercer said he's "much more likely to be talking to a lobster fisherman than a bestselling author" on his show, he treated the author chats "exactly the same way" he treats those he speaks with on "The Rick Mercer Report."

"I love exploring subculture, whether that's people who throw bags of flour out of airplanes or whether that's people who race lawn mowers on the weekends, and this was exactly the same thing. It was a subculture of people who like big, serious novels."'