Conrad Black will not be coerced into giving up his Order of Canada medal; he is much more likely to give it up instead.
“I would not wait for giving these junior officials the, evidently, almost aphrodisiacal pleasure of throwing me out. I would withdraw.” Mr. Black said in an interview aired Friday on CBC television, one of several he gave this week that has been drawing attention.
An 11-member advisory panel is reviewing whether Mr. Black, 68, should be stripped of the country’s most esteemed civilian honour, which he received in 1990. The review is the result of his convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice in connection with his now-bankrupt newspaper empire, Hollinger International Inc. The former media mogul spent 37 months in a Florida prison.
The Constitution of the Order of Canada outlines three circumstances under which a person’s membership in the Order ends. It ceases when the recipient dies, when the Governor-General accepts a written resignation, or when the Governor-General terminates the appointment.
Mr. Black had requested an oral hearing before the panel to argue his case to retain the Order of Canada, but a Federal Court judge denied his request on Thursday.
In a written statement, Justice Yves de Montigny said: “I fail to see how Mr. Black could use an oral hearing to establish that he did nothing wrong, legally or morally, without by necessity attempting to relitigate the decisions of the U.S. courts.”
Mr. Black told the CBC he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Mr. Black has been a frequent television guest this week as he promotes his new book.
On a BBC quiz show earlier Friday, he was gently mocked for admitting he “could live on $80-million a year,” but panelists appeared at times puzzled when he repeatedly maintained the U.S. Supreme Court had unanimously cleared him.
“You’ve come here to say you’re innocent, which is sweet but not true,” said Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye magazine and a panelist on Have I Got News For You.
The BBC appearance was to be the pinnacle of Mr. Black’s week-long London press tour to sell his new book, not his revisionist history – but the panellists were having none of it.
In one particularly pointed exchange, punctuated by laughter, Mr. Hislop refused to let Mr. Black burnish his reputation as an innocent man “oppressed by the U.S.”
“Did they invade you? I must have missed it,” Mr. Hislop asked to much audience laughter, but barely a smile from Mr. Black.
Mr. Black interjected several times throughout the show that many of the charges against him had been overturned and he was an innocent man: “Nine acquittals and they sort of ran out of steam,” Mr. Black said at one point.
“No, you didn’t run out of steam. You ran into jail. They found you guilty, didn’t they Conrad?” Mr. Hislop asked.
Mr. Black’s behaviour on British television this week has been at times belligerent and erratic – at one point calling BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman “priggish” and “gullible.” While Mr. Black was in a better mood and quite good form during Friday’s BBC program, he still rejected Mr. Hislop’s suggestion that he had come to Britain seeking to rehabilitate his reputation or that he would have any reason to do so.
“All I’m saying is you were found guilty of two counts, which stood,” Mr. Hislop said. “You went to jail. You’ve come back. You would like to be rehabilitated.”
“No, no, no,” Mr. Black insisted. “I’ve been rehabilitated and I am proud to have been cleared by the Supreme Court unanimously.”
To which Mr. Hislop simply replied: “You weren’t cleared.”
Mr. Black has stated his intention to return to take his seat in Britain’s House of Lords despite his two convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice for which he was jailed in the United States.
In a lighter moment, Mr. Black told the Have I Got News For You panellists that he’d lost 80 per cent of his money fighting the U.S. court case but denied telling Vanity Fair magazine that he still had a substantial fortune left.
“I said I thought I could live on $80-million if that’s what I had,” Mr. Black explained.
“Well, that’s the spirit. Chin up,” came the quick retort.
Mr. Black was also asked if he knew anything about “this austerity thing” happening in recession-ravaged Britain.
“Did you have that?” Mr. Hislop asked.
“No,” Mr. Black replied. “Canada’s rich.”