Ex-leader fights against sex claims
Brown stepped down as head of Ontario Tories
Until a few days ago, it seemed Patrick Brown had been virtually wiped off Ontario’s political map.
He quit as leader of the province’s Conservatives within hours of sexual-misconduct allegations coming to light, his party moved rapidly to find a replacement and the Tories’ interim chief vowed to clean out the “rot” he had supposedly left behind.
But after two weeks of near-silence, Brown is back, conducting a multi-pronged campaign to clear his name of charges he calls “malicious and false," as one element of those accusations crumbled Wednesday.
The Canadian politicians, entertainers and business people accused of sexual transgressions as part of the widening #MeToo movement have generally skulked away from the harsh glare of publicity. Brown is one of the first to aggressively fight back.
With media interviews, emotional Facebook posts, private investigators and supportive tweets from a host of Conservative members or provincial parliament and party luminaries, Brown has put to the test charges of sex harassment and assault that were accepted without question two weeks ago when CTV News first reported them.
“Here is my message to CTV News,” he said on Facebook Wednesday. “You lied. You defamed me. I will not allow your brand of trashy journalism to hurt another person in this country.”
And to the two women who accused him of misconduct in his hometown of Barrie, Ont.: “If you truly stand by your allegations, then I urge you to contact Barrie Police and have them lay charges … These types of allegations should be dealt with in a proper and fair forum.”
In an interview on Global TV Wednesday, he suggested that a third party was behind the allegations, saying one of the women had voiced support for him on social media long after the alleged incident.
“I want to know who put her up to this. I want to know who’s behind this, because this is just horrific.”
CTV reported that the two women, neither of whom has been named, were standing by their allegations, but did acknowledge that a key part of one accuser’s story was incorrect as originally reported.
One of them had said she was a high school student under the legal drinking age when Brown met her at a bar about 10 years ago, gave her drinks back at his home, then exposed himself and told her to perform oral sex on him.
She now says she was of legal drinking age and out of high school. Brown was 29.
“Collateral details from an incident many years ago are not important,” the woman said in a statement released Wednesday by David Butt, her lawyer. The issue, she said, is “the abuse of power by an older sober man over a young intoxicated woman.”
Butt accused Brown of an insensitive and patriarchal attempt to goad and “dictate to a survivor what her healing path should be.”
“By daring my client to go to the police, Mr. Brown destroys the credibility of his self-proclaimed support for women who have suffered sexual mistreatment,” he said in the statement.
In an interview, the lawyer suggested Brown’s response has generally exhibited “tone deafness,” and would mean even fewer women coming forward about alleged sexual misconduct in future.
Meanwhile, back in the limelight, Brown has cast an awkward shadow over a party that in recent days has excitedly trumpeted its future without him.
“We are in the midst of exciting times, with unlimited potential,” interim leader Vic Fedeli enthused in a memo obtained by the Toronto Star, citing a record influx of volunteers and cash since Brown left.
Brown’s publicity counteroffensive began on Friday, with a Postmedia News interview in which he called the allegations “absolute lies,” the story spreading via a mass text to Conservative members soon afterward.
A Facebook post expanded on the theme, and was followed by tweets from a variety of MPPs, Conservative candidates in the June 7 election and other Tories. Among them was Thomas DeGroot, head of IT on the party executive, who declared “Always believed @ brownbarrie” in retweeting the Postmedia story.
Brown has hired lawyers, who in turn have retained private investigators.
The goal is not to discredit the women but get to the bottom of what happened and expose any inconsistencies, argued Alise Mills, a Vancouver crisis-communications expert working for Brown.