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Jian Ghomeshi is photographed in Toronto on July 3, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Jian Ghomeshi is photographed in Toronto on July 3, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Ghomeshi defends sex life, plans to sue CBC over firing Add to ...

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation dismissed Jian Ghomeshi after receiving information it says “precludes” the corporation from continuing to employ one of its biggest stars.

Within hours of losing his job as host of the cultural affairs show Q, Mr. Ghomeshi turned to his personal Facebook page to issue a 1,586-word statement in which he claimed he was fired due to fears of a scandal if details of his “adventurous” sexual behaviour were revealed publicly.

In the statement, published about seven hours after he learned he had been let go, Mr. Ghomeshi claims he’s been hounded by false allegations from an ex-girlfriend. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. Warning readers that what follows “may be shocking to some,” he details a relationship in which he engaged in dominance and submission, which he describes as “a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey.”

“Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks,” he writes. “They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. We all have our secret life. But that is my private life.”

He also raises the prospect of allegations of abuse, saying, “the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie.”

The Toronto Star reported late Sunday that three women have made allegations of violent, non-consensual  assaults by Mr. Ghomeshi, while noting that none had reported their claims to police. The Star further reported that a former employee of the CBC claimed to have been sexually harassed by Mr. Ghomeshi.

The ouster of Mr. Ghomeshi, who as host of Q has emerged as a prominent personality in music, art and literary circles, appears to be the opening round of a very public spat between the public broadcaster and a man who was for years one of its central personalities. Mr. Ghomeshi has hired Navigator, a prominent company that describes itself as a “high-stakes public strategy and communications firm,” and his lawyers announced Sunday that he intends to sue the CBC for $50-million.

The CBC, which did not provide details on the information that prompted its decision to part ways with the popular host, said the move “was not made without serious deliberation and careful consideration.” Mr. Ghomeshi learned of his dismissal at noon on Sunday, according to sources familiar with the situation.

In an e-mail, CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said: “Information came to our attention recently, that in CBC’s judgment, precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian Ghomeshi.”

The sudden departure of such a high-profile host from the CBC’s airwaves will be a major blow to the public broadcaster. At 47, Mr. Ghomeshi had broad appeal with a range of demographics, particularly hard-to-reach younger listeners, not only within Canada but outside the country as well. The fallout will affect Q, but perhaps also the future of the CBC more broadly at a trying time in the corporation’s history.

The difficult questions raised by Mr. Ghomeshi’s dismissal surround not only the details of his conduct, but what CBC executives knew of it and when, and lines are being drawn in the battle to frame the public’s understanding of his departure.

Last Friday, the corporation announced Mr. Ghomeshi would take an indefinite leave to deal with “personal issues.” That same day, he tweeted that “I’m ok” and “taking some much needed personal time.”

In his statement on Sunday, Mr. Ghomeshi also said he has been open with his CBC bosses and that the corporation has been “part of the team” assembled to address any allegations against him “for months.” Mr. Thompson, the CBC spokesman, would only say the CBC received information “recently.”

The law firm Dentons Canada LLP is representing Mr. Ghomeshi. In a statement on Sunday, the firm said the lawsuit “will claim general and punitive damages for among other things, breach of confidence and bad faith in the amount of $50-million.” He also plans to file a grievance for reinstatement under the CBC’s collective agreement, according to his lawyers.

The CBC had not been served on Sunday, “however, if we are, as the public broadcaster, we will contest the lawsuit vigorously,” Mr. Thompson said.

With Mr. Ghomeshi’s departure, the CBC has lost a star. Q drew an average of 282,000 listeners in September and is now also distributed on 172 U.S. stations through Public Radio International, according to the CBC’s website. Those stations pay a licence fee to the CBC to carry the show.

The radio host’s hiatus from the airwaves comes at a hugely difficult moment for the public broadcaster, which has been besieged by round after round of cutbacks.

In the spring, the CBC eliminated 657 jobs as part of a plan to balance the books after federal funding was slashed and the corporation lost valuable NHL hockey rights to Rogers Communications Inc.

In June, president and CEO Hubert Lacroix announced the corporation would cut another 1,000 to 1,500 jobs by 2020 as it strives to recalibrate its programming to serve mobile audiences.

And this week, the Canadian Media Guild said Mr. Lacroix told union leaders 400 of those job losses will come by the end of March, 2015.

Mr. Ghomeshi says he has faced no formal complaints and “no charges.”

Toronto Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said in an e-mail that “I have no information on any police involvement” with Mr. Ghomeshi.

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Follow on Twitter: @jembradshaw

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