TORONTO – The emergence of “graphic” evidence that its former star radio host Jian Ghomeshi had caused physical injury to a person is what prompted the CBC to fire him, the broadcaster said Friday.
In a memo to staff, executive vice-president Heather Conway said it wanted to provide some information to staff ahead of the weekend on the situation involving the co-founder and host of the “Q” program.
“On Thursday, Oct. 23, CBC saw for the first time graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman,” Conway said.
“We determined that Jian’s conduct was a fundamental breach of CBC’s standard of acceptable conduct for any employee.”
Conway said Ghomeshi advised the corporation in the spring that the Toronto Star was looking into allegations by an ex-girlfriend that he had engaged in non-consensual “rough sex.”
Ghomeshi, who was fired last Sunday, has insisted having only consensual “rough sex” with women and said he was the victim of a disgruntled ex. As many as nine women — two named — have since come forward to allege he attacked them physically and sexually without warning. Ghomeshi said Thursday he would meet the allegations “directly.”
None of the allegations has been proven. His lawyer did not return a call Friday.
According to the CBC memo, he also had a letter from two journalists that made allegations about his private life. The Star never contacted the corporation directly about them, she said.
“When directly confronted, Jian firmly denied there was any truth to those allegations,” Conway said.
In early summer, a “Q” employee received a letter from a reporter asking about Ghomeshi’s behaviour, she said. The letter suggested his conduct may have “crossed over” into the workplace.
Conway said an investigation involving CBC’s human resources department followed that included direct interviews with employees and management but did not uncover any complaints of the alleged nature about his behaviour in the workplace.
“We also spoke to Jian at that time and asked him directly if there was any truth to the allegations,” Conway said.
Ghomeshi was adamant that he and his lawyers would be able to prove he had done nothing wrong should the Star pursue the allegations and the newspaper did not print a story, she said.
“Based on Jian’s denial, we continued to believe Jian.”
The unspecified “graphic evidence” persuaded the corporation that it could no longer accept that position.
However, the Star quoting unnamed sources reported on Friday that Ghomeshi, 47, showed his bosses videos depicting bondage and beating during sexual activities in an effort to show bruising could happen and still be consensual. The paper said it had not seen the video.
Ghomeshi has launched a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC for breach of confidence and defamation. He has also filed a grievance alleging dismissal without proper cause that damaged his reputation.
The CBC has hired an independent investigator to look at its handling of the situation after at least one former employee said she had complained about his behaviour to a union rep, who spoke to his executive producer, but nothing substantive was done.
However, a source told The Canadian Press that the woman did not allege sexual or other harassment, only that he had inappropriately yelled at her before storming off.
“She didn’t say he said anything sexually harassing, even though now she says she did,” the source said. “Both of them say she didn’t.”
In a statement Friday, CBC President Hubert Lacroix said he was shocked, saddened and angry at the torrent of allegations against Ghomeshi.
“I empathize with those who have felt powerless to speak out, or who have tried to speak out and felt ignored,” Lacroix said.
“As the father of two young daughters, I share your frustration.”
Also Friday, Penguin Canada said in a statement it had decided against publishing Ghomeshi’s next book “in light of recent events.”
In addition, Toronto-based The Agency, said it no longer represented Ghomeshi, while the Toronto pop musician Lights said she had dropped him as her manager.
None of Ghomeshi’s accusers has filed a police complaint.