By now the video has gone viral. At least by Canadian standards.
It shows newly minted Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre being heckled at his debut news conference by Global News chief political correspondent David Akin.
Before the news conference started, reporters had been told there would be no questions, but Akin asked questions anyway, shouting them out from the floor, drowning out Poilievre’s statement.
At first, Poilievre tried to brush it off as a joke, saying a “liberal heckler” must have shown up. Then he pushed back saying he’d never heard Akin interrupt the prime minister this way. Finally, Poilievre capitulated under pressure and agreed he’d allow two questions from the media. He then restarted his speech without further interruption.
No doubt Akin was being rude. He was hounded by viewers and later put out a statement on Twitter: “Lots of readers/viewers called me about today’s Parliament Hill presser. Many said I was rude and disrespectful to @PierrePoilievre. I agree. I’m sorry for that. We all want politicians to answer questions — but there are better ways of making that point.”
There definitely were better ways to make the point. Perhaps all the media should have turned off their cameras and walked out.
Worse still, a tweet by Anthony Koch, Poilievre’s press secretary, alleged Akin “told me to tell Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to go f–k himself.”
Since then Toronto Star Columnist Bruce Arthur has reported that 'sources in the room' heard it differently.
In fact, Akin told Koch, “We’re not his f------ stenographers. And you can tell him that.”
Opinion: You don’t get to cheat citizens in a democracy by holding a “press conference” where you muzzle the press and expect us to play along, writes Karyn Pugliese.
CNO has now been able to independently confirm the statement as reported by The Star is correct.
It may still be that any reporter dropping an F-bomb to a source should have their mouth washed out with soap. Mothers across Canada can settle the debate on manners later.
For now, while I don’t love his overly combative approach, we should not miss the point of what triggered Akin. I won’t defend his actions, but I will defend his sentiment.
Who the hell calls a press conference, then tells reporters they can’t ask questions?
It’s right in the words: P-R-E-S-S conference.
Dear politicians, if you want to reach the public without the media, you’re free to open a Facebook page or post more of your spicy attack ads to YouTube. Maybe suck up a few million taxpayers' dollars to fund a PR “war room” like Jason Kenney and if your voters keep coming back, more power to you. You can even launch your own news site like Doug Ford did.
However, there are still citizens in this democracy who invest their time and money to support a free press. They want journalists to represent them, to seek truth and demand accountability.
That’s right, if you want access to media platforms, public accountability is the price of entry.
You don’t get to cheat citizens in a democracy by holding a “press conference” where you muzzle the press and expect us to play along.
Mr. Poilievre, welcome to the first day of leadership class.
Here is lesson 101: You are not the free press’ gatekeeper.