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B.C. Premier Christy Clark answers questions during an interview at the B.C. Legislative Building in Victoria in December 2012. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark answers questions during an interview at the B.C. Legislative Building in Victoria in December 2012. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

POLITICS

Clark reaches out to DJ who called her a ‘MILF’ on air Add to ...

B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s team had no reservations about outreach to voters that put the Premier on air last month with a Vancouver Island radio host who asked her a question using a vulgar term that refers to a sexually desirable woman.

Ms. Clark laughed at the question, passed on from a listener of 98.9 Jet in Courtenay, and said she would rather be called that four-letter acronym than a cougar.

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And her controversial interview with Justin Wilcomes, known as Drex, might have been a forgotten curiosity but for the news on Tuesday that the Premier recently had a follow-up conversation with the radio host to wish him well in a new job in Vancouver.

As a result, some are suggesting a politician looking for support can go too far in trying to be popular, a key issue for Ms. Clark as she faces a May 14 provincial election.

Ms. Clark’s communications director confirmed on Tuesday that the Premier called Mr. Wilcomes. She not only wished him professional luck, but thanked him for an apologetic e-mail. Ben Chin said that Mr. Wilcomes apologized to the Premier for the question, and for putting her in an awkward position. “It was a genuine letter,” Mr. Chin said.

This week, Mr. Wilcomes tweeted: “I received a phone call from BC Premier Christy Clark today. She was far from impressed that I got fired. It was awesome that she called.”

Mr. Chin defended the Premier’s decision to go on the station as an appropriate part of her outreach. The station invited her, he said. “The Premier does believe it is important to reach out to British Columbians where they work, play and spend time. FM radio is part of that.”

Ms. Clark’s reply when asked what it is like to be a MILF caused a furor. Some criticized Mr. Wilcomes. Others targeted Ms. Clark for answering an offensive question. The incident also raised concerns about the effect on Ms. Clark’s efforts to connect with female voters at a time when polls suggest they have largely rallied behind the opposition New Democrats under Adrian Dix. Pollster Mario Canseco said Ms. Clark’s outreach to the classic-rock radio station was a miscalculation.“Trying to appeal to a broader base makes sense, but it was probably not the best venue for it because I think you leave yourself exposed for something that is going to be unpleasant,” he said. “I don’t imagine Barack Obama going to the Howard Stern show to appeal to youth. It’s just too risky.”

Although the vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion said Ms. Clark reacted quickly, he added that there wasn’t much to be gained from the effort. Ms. Clark, he said, needs some savvy outreach because of a 30-per-cent approval rating, “which is not great heading into an election.”

After his conversation with the Premier, Mr. Wilcomes was fired, but bounced back professionally, starting on Monday night with a new on-air gig at 99.3 The Fox, which was happy to get him. “He’s a guy who deserved a shot on a station like The Fox,” said Chris Duncombe, senior program director of the Vancouver station.

Mr. Duncombe said The Fox, which targets a young male audience, had no problem with the Clark incident. “It certainly was not a deterrent. He was brought into the light to a lot of people who had never heard of him before because of that controversy. When you listen to the content [of the conversation], the Premier is playing along and laughs during the content so she clearly had no problem with it.”

He noted that Ms. Clark has been a guest on The Fox, and was a member of the same corporate family in her years as a radio talk-show host in Vancouver. After leaving provincial politics in 2005 to spend more time with her family, Ms. Clark went to work at CKNW before returning to politics in 2010 to seek and win the leadership of the B.C. Liberals. Both CKNW and The Fox are owned by Corus Radio, although Mr. Duncombe noted they have very different broadcasting approaches.

Political scientist Norman Ruff said Ms. Clark was responding not as Premier, but as “Christy Clark, friendly person,” and that she should have refused to answer. The professor emeritus at the University of Victoria said the whole situation reflects a lack of gravitas that has been a problem for Ms. Clark. “This exchange on the radio fully illustrates that.”

Follow on Twitter: @ianabailey

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