Just because you’re asked a question doesn’t mean you always have to answer it.
When Rebel’s Keean Bexte took the mic to introduce himself, Blanchet immediately shut him down.
“I won’t answer Rebel News,” Blanchet said.
“I’ll keep asking the question because a judge said we could be here and ask questions,” Bexte said before asking Blanchet about Albertan separatism.
“My answer is that I won’t answer you,” Blanchet responded, before asking for another question from anyone else in French.
Right-wing media in Canada
Ahead of the debate, a federal judge ruled that members of two controversial right-wing outlets would be accredited to cover the debate as journalists. The judge decided that Rebel Media and the True North Initiative had established that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if denied access to Monday’s debate and the French-language debate later this week.
WATCH: Federal leaders arrive to protests ahead of English-language debate. Story continues below.
Bexte, fellow Rebel commentator David Menzies and the True North Initiative’s Andrew Lawton were all given credentials to cover the debate. Bexte and Lawton got in a total of eight questions during the scrums.
Bexte is a controversial figure in Canada. Last year, Ricochet reported on his involvement in a Calgary-based online store selling white-supremacist paraphernalia, including Rhodesian flags. The former Conservative party staffer also resigned from his campus conservative club at the University of Calgary in 2017 after the group — of which he was communications director at the time — promoted an alt-right film with an email declaring that “feminism is cancer.”
Meanwhile, the True North Centre bills itself as an “independent, non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to advancing sound immigration and security policies.”
Lawton, a former Rebel commentator, ran for Doug Ford’s provincial Conservatives in Ontario in 2018 but was embroiled in controversy around sexist, homophobic and racist comments he made as recently as 2016. Lawton apologized, and ultimately lost the election to the NDP‘s Peggy Sattler.
Menzies, meanwhile, made headlines last week after being kicked out of an Andrew Scheer event in Ontario.
Other leaders do take questions
Later during his scrum, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau did take several questions from Bexte and Lawton, although he didn’t answer all of them directly.
“We are a party and country that respects the freedom of the press and we will continue to,” Trudeau repeated when asked by Lawton about the court order to allow him and Lawton in.
The Rebel has come out strongly in favour of People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier. Bernier returned that support following Monday’s court ruling.
During questions, Bernier appeared happy to hear from the two right-wing reporters, referring to their inclusion in the press corps as similar to his own inclusion in the debate.
Leading up to Monday’s debate, there were questions of whether or not Bernier would be included. The PPC leader is locked in a tight race for his own seat, with the far-right party polling below five per cent nationally and many — including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — saying that giving him a spot in the debate would be “platforming hate.” However, the debate commission ultimately decided Bernier met the bar to be included.
CORRECTION: a previous version of this article used the description for the True North Centre for the True North Initiative, when they are separate organizations. A quote originally attributed to Keean Bexte has also been properly attributed to Andrew Lawton and the organization’s stance on Maxime Bernier has been clarified.