A statement from the Conservative Party distancing itself from the controversial alt-right Rebel Media has been shown to Andrew Scheer, the party’s leader, but has yet to be released.
It’s not clear whether Scheer, who has been interviewed by the controversial opinion site on four different occasions, is uncomfortable with the move, or whether the announcement is merely delayed.
Two different sources in the party confirmed to VICE News that meetings had been held in Scheer’s office to discuss what to do about the increasingly toxic website.
One spokesperson, in Scheer’s office, said on Monday that a statement had been drafted that would make the party’s position clear, and was merely awaiting sign-off from Scheer himself.
But 24 hours later, after a raft of defections from The Rebel and amid growing calls for political leaders to name and shame the growing influence of alt-right and white supremacist figures, no statement has been released.
A spokesperson in Scheer’s office would not comment or provide detail about when the party would release a statement, the cause for the delay, or where Scheer stood on the issue.
Scheer is the only leader to appear on The Rebel
The spokesperson would only add that they would provide more detail when Scheer’s office made the decision to publish — or not to publish — a statement.
Update — August 17, 12:55pm: CBC released a video on Thursday, recorded Wednesday evening (after VICE News published its story), where Scheer offered a couched statement regarding the Rebel without referencing it by name. “I think there is a fine line between reporting the facts and giving some of those groups a platform or any kind of legitimacy,” Scheer told reporters. He continued: “So as long as the editorial direction of that particular institution remains as it is … I won’t be granting those types of interviews.”
Scheer, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, all tweeted condemnation for the racism and violence that was on display in Charlottesville.
But Scheer is the only leader to appear on The Rebel — if he were to distance himself from The Rebel, it would likely cut his ties to an outlet that has given him ample airtime.
Last November, Scheer sat down with Ezra Levant to talk immigration; then again with host Faith Goldy in February to talk about his opposition to a motion condemning Islamophobia; with Alberta correspondent Sheila Gunn Reid in August; and finally with former correspondent Brian Lilley immediately after winning his bid for the leadership in May.
During his bid for party leader, Scheer’s campaign manager, Hamish Marshall — who has since gone back into private practise — sits on the board of directors for The Rebel, primarily working on digital strategy for the alt-right site.
Recently, however, The Rebel has gone after Scheer for supporting the Paris climate accord and for calling himself a feminist.
Other parts of Scheer’s policies, however — opposing a House of Commons motion condemning Islamophobia, pulling government funding for universities that do not do enough to foster free speech, repealing the federal carbon pricing system — all proved popular with the network.
Conversations in Scheer’s office began after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
Just prior to a ramming attack that left one counter-protester dead, Goldy spoke fondly of a manifesto penned by white supremacist an alt-right leader Richard Spencer. After the attack, Goldy received praise from former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and openly broadcast speculation that it was left-wing protesters who were to blame for the domestic terror attack that claimed the life of a 32-year-old woman.
“This departure has been a long time coming.”
On Monday, Conservative Party moderate and former leadership candidate Michael Chong announced he would boycott the channel, as its “editorial direction includes the promotion of anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and calling for a democratically-elected premier to be locked up,” according to a statement sent to Press Progress, a left-wing blog.
Since then, things have gone badly for The Rebel.
On Monday evening, Lilley — a radio host and reporter who had been one of the more moderate Rebel personalities — announced he would be leaving the site.
“This departure has been a long time coming,” he wrote in a statement. “What may have started as a concern over the harsh tone taken on some subjects came to a head with this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
They’ve also lost Barbara Kay, a socially conservative writer; and John Robson, a conservative columnist who also contributes to the National Post.
Ezra Levant, founder and leader of The Rebel, had tried to head off criticism of the network on Monday by releasing a statement disavowing the alt-right. Yet, given that Goldy had openly praised an alt-right manifesto just hours earlier and that The Rebel has consistently played host to white supremacists, many criticized the statement as too little, too late.