Kory Teneycke, a former top spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has resigned from the effort he started to bring a right-leaning TV network to Canada.
He said controversy over SUN TV, which he acknowledged he helped fuel, is hurting the project's chances of acquiring the regulatory approvals it seeks.
"Part of leading a team is knowing when your presence is a detriment to success," Mr. Teneycke said at a press conference on Parliament Hill.
He announced Wednesday morning he is therefore stepping down as vice-president of business development at Quebecor Media, a job that included managing Sun Media's Ottawa news bureau.
He declined to answer questions at a Parliament Hill news conference, including whether his resignation is linked to his recent battle with Avaaz, a U.S.-based activist group campaigning against a "Fox News North" network in Canada.
Avaaz has asked Ottawa Police and the RCMP to investigate who sabotaged its online petition against SUN TV News, alleging in their request that Mr. Teneycke had knowledge of the perpetrator. It said Internet data reveals the alleged fraudster was based in Ottawa and using a Rogers Internet connection at the time.
Since June, Mr. Teneycke, a political aide-turned media mogul, has mounted an aggressive and sometimes bitter public relations campaign to generate interest in SUN TV.
Mr. Teneycke openly derided mainstream news organizations as the "lame-stream media" and lashed out at critics, calling former CBC TV journalist Don Newman "the Helen Thomas of Canada." That was a reference to the long-time White House reporter who resigned in embarrassment this summer after she said Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to places such as Germany.
"Over the summer this controversy has gotten out of hand. It has morphed from one of market differentiation to something more vicious and vitriolic," Mr. Teneycke said.
"And yes at times I have contributed to the debasing of that debate myself."
Earlier this week Avaaz, the online-petition organizer, announced it had asked Ottawa Police and RCMP to probe what it alleged was tampering with its SUN TV petition. It said someone operating from an Ottawa-based web address was adding fictional and real names and email addresses to a petition to stop SUN TV.
Mr. Teneycke said he intends his exit to make things easier for Quebecor.
"It is my hope that my departure will hit the reset button, lower the temperature and allow a more rational debate over the television license for Sun TV news to occur," he said. "One not tainted by politics and controversies of the past month."
He said he was still "intensely passionate" about the project - aimed at "filling a void in the market by offering Canadians a new choice and a new voice."
Former Mulroney spokesman Luc Lavoie will take over from Mr. Teneycke as the leader on the Sun TV News file, Quebecor announced. Mr. Lavoie has had a long association with Quebecor.
"We would like to thank Kory for the excellent work he has performed for our company, and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours", Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said in a statement.
The issue became particularly controversial as a result of the petition from Avaaz, a U.S. special interest group, condemning the Sun TV operation.
Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood signed the petition, not as a way of censoring the network but to express her concern over a pattern she saw developing as to how the Harper government treats senior officials whose opinions are not on side.
There was some speculation that CRTC head Konrad von Finckenstein's position was in jeopardy because he didn't grant Mr. Teneycke's network its desired licence.