It has been quite a week for political apologies – some ringing with sincerity and some, not so much. But the prize for the longest mea culpa by a Canadian politician in recent days goes to Liberal MP Gerry Byrne for a Twitter rant he directed at actress Pamela Anderson.
Ms. Anderson, a Canadian best known for her aquatic work, was in St. John’s, Nfld. on Tuesday along with Sam Simon, a director and producer who was one of the originators of the Simpsons. They were speaking out against the seal hunt.
Mr. Simon, with the photogenic assistance of Ms. Anderson – who is also the honourary director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – tried to offer a million dollars to the Canadian Sealers Association in exchange for an agreement to end the annual harvest/slaughter (depending on where one’s sentiments lie).
The celebrities did not get through the association’s door. They were heckled by sealers. And Mark Critch, a Newfoundland-born star of CBC’s 22 Minutes, offered to give Ms. Anderson a million dollars of she would stop acting.
Then Mr. Byrne, who represents a Newfoundland riding, piped in on Twitter to criticize their decision to travel from California to make a statement about the sealing industry. He did so by pointing out that Ms. Anderson has Hepatitis C and Mr. Simon has been diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer.
“Hey Pam, here’s a thought. Take your million and donate it to ... sexually transmitted disease prevention education. Good self-promotion,” tweeted Mr. Byrne.
“A hasbeen ‘actor’ with an incurable STD and a guy dying of cancer throw down the gauntlet ‘Men of retirement age aren’t important,’” he continued. The last part of the second tweet was apparently a reference to the observation by Mr. Simon that the half dozen sealers who turned out to protest appeared to be older folks.
Ms. Anderson has spoken publicly about her disease which she says she contracted by sharing a tattoo needle with her then-husband, musician Tommy Lee.
And by Wednesday, Mr. Byrne had both erased the remarks from his Twitter account and offered a lengthy statement of apology which was posted to his website.
In it, Mr. Byrne says the anger welled in him as he listened to the pair oppose the seal hunt. And then he made statements which he now regrets.
“To all whom I have offended in any way, including Ms. Anderson and Mr. Simon, I sincerely apologize and retract the statements I made on social media. Our strong differences regarding what I believe to be a humane and sustainable harvest of seals off the Canadian coastline and what others may see it as may remain but I apologize for stepping beyond that debate,” wrote Mr. Byrne.
“Just as I remain committed to the notion that science and mutual respect should be the foundations of opinion about the seal harvest, the same commitment must be kept for those who suffer from the serious illness of Hepatitis C which affects so many including Ms. Anderson,” he wrote. “I understand from science that Hepatitis C is contracted by sexual activity only on relatively rare occasion. I understand that effective treatments are available that substantially improve the quality of life of all those afflicted. I understand that a cure, while not yet available, is being advanced very quickly. And with this knowledge, I should have assisted in fostering the proper context of this illness and reaffirmed that those who suffer from this affliction should not be stigmatized.”
The bottom line for Mr. Byrne was that two wrongs do not make a right.
“And who should best be able to understand that principle and to act upon it than someone who has witnessed what has happened to something they value and wish to protect as I do,” he wrote of the seal hunt. “Being true to one’s self means being true to others. I made a mistake in judgment. I apologize to all offended. It is sincere and heartfelt.”