Ghomeshi pens plea to ‘reclaim’ his name
DISGRACED BROADCASTER JIAN GHOMESHI AGAIN UNDER FIRE AFTER PENNING PLEA FOR EMPATHY
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to a fourth woman in court and signed a peace bond in return for a final count of sexual assault against him being withdrawn.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.
Former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted in 2016 of four counts of sexual assault and one of choking.