Ghome­shi pens plea to ‘reclaim’ his name

DIS­GRACED BROAD­CASTER JIAN GHOME­SHI AGAIN UN­DER FIRE AF­TER PEN­NING PLEA FOR EM­PA­THY

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In a self-de­scribed plan to “reclaim” his name af­ter be­ing cut down by claims of sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment, Jian Ghome­shi pub­lished a lengthy per­sonal es­say in a pres­ti­gious New York pub­li­ca­tion Fri­day, cast­ing him­self as a “#MeToo pi­o­neer” for be­ing pushed aside by ac­cu­sa­tions be­fore the move­ment even had its name.

While Ghome­shi be­ing shamed into re­treat pre­ceded the no­to­ri­ety that be­fell Har­vey We­in­stein, his come­back plea forms some­thing of an emer­gent trend of former icons brought low by ac­cu­sa­tions re-emerg­ing through ac­cess to re­spected pub­li­ca­tions.

Ghome­shi, a former CBC ra­dio star, was fired in 2014 when mul­ti­ple al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse and ha­rass­ment emerged. It be­came a high-or­der pub­lic scan­dal.

In 2016, he was ac­quit­ted at trial in Toronto of four counts of sex­ual as­sault and one of over­com­ing re­sis­tance by chok­ing based on al­le­ga­tions from three women.

He then apol­o­gized for be­ing “sex­u­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate” to a fourth woman in court and signed a peace bond in re­turn for a fi­nal count of sex­ual as­sault against him be­ing with­drawn.

He re­mained silent about the case un­til Fri­day when the New York Re­view of Books pub­lished a lengthy first-per­son piece un­der Ghome­shi’s name.

But the piece im­me­di­ately came un­der fire with one of his ac­cusers, Kathryn Borel, say­ing the es­say, “where he begs for ab­so­lu­tion and em­pa­thy — is at best ab­surd and at worst li­bel­lous to­wards his vic­tims.”

In his 3,400-word ar­ti­cle, Ghome­shi de­scribes him­self as “an erst­while ‘celebrity’ who is now an out­cast,” a man now “con­stantly com­pet­ing with a vil­lain­ous ver­sion of my­self on­line” and a vic­tim “of a con­tem­po­rary mass sham­ing.”

He de­scribes his be­hav­iour to­wards women as him be­ing a “player, creep, cad, Lothario.”

“My ac­quit­tal left my ac­cusers and many ob­servers pro­foundly un­happy. There was a sen­ti­ment among them that, re­gard­less of any le­gal ex­on­er­a­tion, I was al­most cer­tainly a world-class prick, prob­a­bly a sex­ual bully, and that I needed to be held to ac­count be­yond sim­ply los­ing my ca­reer and rep­u­ta­tion.

“One of my fe­male friends quips that I should get some kind of pub­lic recognition as a #MeToo pi­o­neer. There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy ev­ery­one hated first.”

The im­pact of it all, he writes, was dev­as­tat­ing for him. His ca­reer, fi­nances, many friend­ships and his rep­u­ta­tion were in tat­ters.

“Dur­ing the first two weeks, I was sui­ci­dal. I con­tem­plated the meth­ods by which I could kill my­self. I was ter­ri­fied of be­ing awake and ter­ri­fied of fall­ing asleep,” he writes.

“I was fum­ing about me­dia de­pic­tions,” he writes. “For weeks I was used as click­bait and a meal ticket for cer­tain re­porters who pumped out what­ever sto­ries they could with my name in the head­line.”

He ac­knowl­edges the se­ri­ous­ness of his charges and ad­mits to be­hav­ing “badly,” but de­nies it veered into crim­i­nal­ity.

He of­fers lit­tle so­lace to the women he is ac­cused of ha­rass­ing or at­tack­ing, but writes long pas­sages about him be­ing a poor boyfriend.

“I have spent al­most four years re­flect­ing on my re­la­tions with women I dated. For some, noth­ing I say here will be enough or be put the right way. Even as I feel deep re­morse about how I treated some peo­ple was the­mat­i­cally sim­i­lar to Ghome­shi’s: both ad­dress go­ing from cul­tural icon to pub­lic pariah; how be­ing rec­og­nized in pub­lic has changed; re­fer to them­selves as be­ing vic­tim­ized — Ghome­shi as be­ing made an “out­cast” and Hock­en­berry as an “ex­ile”; both take re­spon­si­bil­ity for a frac­tion of what they were ac­cused of; and both speak to the im­pact of the pub­lic re­buke on their fam­ily but of­fer lit­tle about the im­pact on women.

Re­quests to in­ter­view Ian Bu­ruma, editor New York Re­view of Books, about the piece, went unan­swered Fri­day. An email from the NYRB said the piece was not meant to re-launch Ghome­shi’s ca­reer.

“Jian wrote this piece as an op­por­tu­nity to tell his story and in­ject some nu­ance into the dis­course sur­round­ing his ter­mi­na­tion from the CBC and sub­se­quent events. This piece was not cre­ated to serve as a mar­ket­ing tool or to pro­mote any new projects,” the state­ment says.

Borel, who said that Ghome­shi sex­u­ally as­saulted her when they both worked at CBC — and was the woman who Ghome­shi apol­o­gized to in court — said she saw no rea­son why he should be granted such a ma­jor plat­form for his es­say.

“I’m re­ally try­ing hard to find one sce­nario in which this ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sion makes any sense,” she said on Twit­ter. She said it was an ar­ti­cle “not a soul on earth asked for.”

Ghome­shi de­clined an in­ter­view re­quest for this piece.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES

Former CBC host Jian Ghome­shi was ac­quit­ted in 2016 of four counts of sex­ual as­sault and one of chok­ing.

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