The axe fell on Jian Ghomeshi’s career last Sunday, around noon.
The popular host of the hit radio show Q with Jian Ghomeshi had been summoned to a meeting with his employer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, away from its Toronto headquarters and inquisitive staff. Two days earlier, on Friday, he had been placed on indefinite leave, to the surprise and mystification of his legions of admirers.
This was a decisive meeting for Mr. Ghomeshi, resulting in his dismissal. But his fortunes were all but decided at a meeting three days earlier, according to multiple sources familiar with Mr. Ghomeshi’s interactions with the CBC. All had knowledge of the days leading up to his departure, but none was authorized to speak publicly about it.
The meeting on Thursday, Oct. 23, was prompted in part by growing concern among Mr. Ghomeshi and his advisers that a journalist might be preparing to publish allegations of non-consensual and abusive sexual encounters, according to sources. Mr. Ghomeshi’s lawyers, who had been in discussion with the CBC for months, had evidence they believed would prove Mr. Ghomeshi’s sexual partners had consented.
Executives at the CBC, who had long accepted Mr. Ghomeshi’s account, asked to see the detailed evidence. According to sources with knowledge of the exchange, Mr. Ghomeshi’s camp agreed, and a meeting was arranged for Thursday.
At that meeting, a lawyer for Mr. Ghomeshi presented two people from CBC management with texts, e-mails and photos of the radio host’s sexual encounters. The evidence was intended to demonstrate consent, a point Mr. Ghomeshi would later stress in a statement: “Everything I have done has been consensual.”
But the CBC managers were taken aback, and their views on Mr. Ghomeshi’s conduct changed instantly. What they saw, in their opinions, was far more aggressive and physical than anything they had been led to believe during months of discussions.
Although Mr. Ghomeshi wrote in his statement that the CBC agreed “there was consent,” sources suggested CBC officials were not confident in drawing that conclusion. What was certain was the corporation – a public broadcaster, heavily funded by citizens – swiftly decided it had seen evidence of conduct it could not be seen to defend, according to sources.
The CBC did not put Mr. Ghomeshi on leave until the next day, Oct. 24. Shortly before 4 p.m., journalist Jesse Brown tweeted that Mr. Ghomeshi was on “indefinite” leave, and the CBC’s head of public affairs, Chuck Thompson, responded with a tweet saying he was not, as Mr. Ghomeshi had not yet been told.
Once the host was informed, he was given Saturday to think about his situation and decide whether he had anything further to say to CBC managers.
When he arrived at the Sunday meeting, his dismissal was not yet a foregone conclusion, one source confirmed. Had he expressed remorse, or offered to seek treatment, the CBC would have had to consider its next steps carefully. Yet Mr. Ghomeshi remained unrepentant. He was let go, and the CBC’s board of directors was told of his departure.
“The Board was informed on Sunday of the management decision, not before,” chairman Rémi Racine said in an e-mail. “The Board was not involved in the decision, as this is a management responsibility.”
Mr. Ghomeshi knew the Sunday meeting could decide his career at the CBC. At the very least, he was going off-air for some time – that much was certain, with allegations and evidence of aggressive sexual behaviour threatening to engulf him.
Accompanying Mr. Ghomeshi to the gathering were a lawyer representing him from Dentons Canada LLP and a staff member from Navigator, the renowned crisis-management firm he had hired. Also in the room was Todd Spencer, the CBC’s executive director of people and culture, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Mr. Spencer arrived with authorization to fire the host – one of CBC’s most high-profile figures – unless Mr. Ghomeshi said something to change the CBC’s views dramatically on an emerging scandal.
Given a chance to speak, Mr. Ghomeshi insisted he had done nothing wrong. His employment was terminated on the spot. The decision was unanimous.Report Typo/Error
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