NEWS

Elizabeth May says sleep deprivation behind failed attempt to be 'edgy' on Khadr

05/11/2015 10:47 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT
If she had a do-over, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she would have realized she was "too sleep-deprived" to pull off what she says she intended to be an "edgy" attempt at humour during her speech at the annual parliamentary dinner in Ottawa on Saturday night.

May sparked controversy when she wrapped up a rambling and overly partisan speech to the crowd of Parliament Hill journalists and politicians with a shout-out to Omar Khadr, who was freed on bail last week pending an appeal of his U.S. conviction on terrorism charges.

"Omar Khadr, you've got more class than the whole f-----g cabinet," May said, referring to the Conservative Party, as Conservative MP and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt tried to usher her off the stage.

Raitt intervened multiple times and attempted to persuade May to end her speech, but instead, May played a recording of Welcome Back, Kotter, the theme song from a 1970s sitcom.

"I'm not going to deny for a moment that I would rather that I had Saturday night to do over," May told CBC News Network host Heather Hiscox on Monday morning.

Speech 'did not work at all', May admits

Usually, party leaders deliver lighthearted, mainly self-deprecating speeches that include the odd barb thrown at the media. But May went on at length Saturday about being the only female leader and having to claw her way into televised leaders' debates.

"What I was attempting to do … as you do at press gallery dinners … is an attempt at humour, and often playing against oneself in ways that are self-deprecating, and doing things that you normally wouldn't do, like [former governor general] Adrienne Clarkson appearing in a bathrobe once, or various schticks," May said Monday.

"Sometimes, they fail, and mine did not work at all."

May said she takes "full responsibility" for her performance.

"It was never my intention ever to suggest to Canadians that I was making a speech," she noted.

"I was trying — and obviously failing, badly — at delivering something a bit edgy, and in hindsight, should have realized that I had travelled so much in the previous 48 hours that I was probably too sleep deprived to pull it off properly."

'Politics has a lot of frightening moments'

She said it was never her intent to offend anyone.

"Politics has a lot of frightening moments, and the annual press gallery dinner is among the most frightening, and I guess all of us know that sometimes, someone is going to give a speech that doesn't go well. and people will remember that one. So I've done my 'Oh, God, That One,' and I hope I don't have to do it ever again."

May told Hiscox that she was attempting to play off her image as a "goody-goody two shoes" in Parliament.

"I never heckle, I never swear, I'm respectful to everyone, so I'd gotten the idea that as skit material, it would be be funny if I were different from how I actually am," she said.

"That obviously doesn't work… especially in a clip out of context from the whole event."

May says sleep deprivation, not alcohol to blame

She also denied that alcohol may have played a role.

"I don't think so, but I think I was very sleep deprived, because I left home… in B.C. that morning at [4 a.m.], but I had left Ottawa the previous morning at [5 a.m.], and I had worked a 21-hour day. I'm not making excuses for myself — I should not have thought I was capable of pulling off an edgy, parliamentary press gallery speech with as little sleep as I had."

There was, however, wine served at dinner, she acknowledged.

"I am not denying that… but primarily, it was just whatever wine the waiters serve at our table. I hadn't had drinks before or after, so I don't think that was a factor, but obviously that is what people are saying online."

The next morning, she got up and went to church, she pointed out.

"I had no problems with my day, so I think it was just the general problem of sleep deprivation, and attempts at humour that… didn't work. What can I say — I'm a politician, not a comedian, and that went very badly."

MORE:cbcNews