For the second time in less than a month, Canada's Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer is facing a "fake news" eruption within his caucus.
Conservative Party MP Kerry Diotte was the latest to use the term “fake news” on social media, attacking a left-leaning group with his own version of an insult that has become part of the vocabulary of United States President Donald Trump.
Diotte, the Conservative member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach, tweeted last night at Progress Alberta, which identifies as part of the Albertan progressive movement, calling it a “fake news outfit.” The tweet has since been deleted.
Diotte’s fleeting broadside comes just weeks after Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant posted a mock newscast to Facebook, also since deleted, that used the term “fake news” when bashing media coverage of Omar Khadr‘s settlement. “They brought out fake news story after fake news story,” Gallant said.
Kerry Diotte was former newspaper columnist
The expression "fake news" rose to prominence following the 2016 U.S. election in the wake of media reports that revealed fictional media articles had rapidly spread during the campaign with false information about the presidential candidates. Trump and his aides later started using the expression to denounce accurate news media reports that they didn't like.
Diotte is no stranger to journalism. He was previously a columnist with the Edmonton Sun before becoming a city councillor in 2010.
The tweet from Diotte was sent from Edmonton late Monday night, according to Twitter. “[email protected] you should be afraid, very afraid you Fake News outfit,” Diotte tweeted.
It was still online as of 9 AM ET, but by 11 AM it was no longer there.
Progress Alberta originally responded to the tweet on its own account by replying, “please tell us what we should be afraid of. Remember, be specific.” This morning, it posted a picture of Diotte’s deleted tweet.
Diotte had moved on this morning to tweeting about CBC Radio coverage of the United Conservative Party, created by the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties in Alberta this weekend. (He also tweeted a link to a National Observer story on the topic on July 23.)
Progress Alberta’s executive director Duncan Kinney replied to the tweet about CBC Radio using his personal Twitter account, writing “I see you deleted the tweet that threatened me and called my org fake news. Any reason why?”
This isn't the first time Diotte has stirred up controversy over his social media practices. In February 2016, the former Edmonton city councillor deleted a tweet and apologized after posting a "Liberal Buzz Word Bingo" scorecard which made light of Liberal ministers using words and expressions such as "middle class," "Syrians," "First Nations" and "United Nations" in the House of Commons.
Reached by National Observer on Tuesday, Kinney said he was disappointed by Diotte's latest tweet.
"It's shameful to see Trump-like language like this in the political discourse in Canada and Alberta," Kinney said.
He said he still wondered what it was he should be very afraid of.
Kinney called Progress Alberta a "hybrid" of journalism and campaigning. "We do independent reporting, research and campaigns," he said, primarily through examining primary-source documents or examining data. The site has never run a correction or issued an apology, or a retraction, he said.
Trump criticized fake news in speech to Boy Scouts
On Monday, Trump railed repeatedly against "fake news" at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in West Virginia. The president has published over 60 tweets attacking "fake news" since the election, according to media reports.
Diotte's constituency office referred queries to his Parliament Hill office, which didn't respond to an interview request before publication.
Kelsie Corey, communications officer in Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office, said Diotte wasn’t available for an interview. She said she couldn’t comment on his tweets or on why he wasn’t available.
Another representative in Scheer’s office did not respond to questions before publication.
Andrew MacDougall, a communications consultant who worked as a communications director for former prime minister Stephen Harper, has slammed Gallant and other Conservatives for attacking the news media. MacDougall said that these types of attacks against journalists don't serve the public interest.
"Politicians like Gallant might not like the news media, but she'd like the world without it a lot less," MacDougall wrote in a recent opinion piece published by the Ottawa Citizen. "If Gallant thinks playing into the growing cynicism about the bias of the media is good for public life, then she's not fit to serve in public office."
Gallant could not immediately be reached for comment.