Jian Ghomeshi, whose high-profile CBC career crashed to a halt after allegations of sexual misconduct became public in 2014, broke his long silence about the matter on Friday in a 3,500-word personal essay for the New York Review of Books. The piece includes much about the former radio host’s feelings and reflections on the events before and after two court processes in 2016, but only a general apology for unspecified incidents while he was dating or attempting to date unnamed women.
“I cannot confess to the accusations that are inaccurate,” Mr. Ghomeshi writes. “What I do confess is that I was emotionally thoughtless in the way I treated those I dated and tried to date. As well, I leveraged my influence and status to try to entice women and lead them on when they were interested.”
Mr. Ghomeshi was found not guilty of charges laid after complaints by three women, including four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking. A separate process, involving former CBC colleague Kathryn Borel, was resolved without trial when Mr. Ghomeshi apologized to Ms. Borel in court for “conduct in the workplace [that] was sexually inappropriate,” and accepted a peace bond.
The article appears online in advance of NYRB’s October print issue, which is entitled The Fall of Men. Mr. Ghomeshi’s piece will be one of three essays featured on the cover, as “Jian Ghomeshi on Jian Ghomeshi.”
The piece opens with a sardonic reflection on how Mr. Ghomeshi used to speak daily to hundreds of thousands, and now performs publicly only in a neighbourhood New York karaoke bar. In between, he launched a podcast called the Ideation Project in April 2017, which ran to 13 episodes and has a note online promising a second series.
The extent of his fall and its aftermath, Mr. Ghomeshi writes, gave him “enough humiliation for a lifetime.”
He reflects on the challenge of seeming to be contrite “without validating every crazy thing that is being said about you by people you’ve never met.” He also writes of his feelings about “former media colleagues and friends who reported on my downfall with a zeal that was transparent in its efforts to display their own virtue, [though some said privately] ‘What happened to you could have been me.’” Other friends, including women, assured him they would speak up for him, but were cowed by the media storm.
“Even if your lips are speaking words of contrition, your mind is a ferment of petty, selfish fury,” he writes. Still, his downfall and its aftermath gave him “a crash course in empathy,” he says.
Mr. Ghomeshi also criticizes his professional and personal milieu while he was flying high. “Everything around me seemed to condone the bullish way a successful single guy might act,’ he writes. His dealings with others, he says, fell out of touch with his professed progressive beliefs.
“I was outspoken in public life but tone-deaf in my private affairs.”
The piece ends with a description of a chance encounter with a woman on a train in Europe, during which Mr. Ghomeshi resists the urge to promote himself with tales of his many celebrity interviews. Instead, he mostly listens to her – a choice that seems to imply the birth, or rebirth, of a sensitive, respectful Jian Ghomeshi.
It remains to be seen whether his lengthy De Profundis wins over any of his critics. It seems likely that some may see his essay as the work of a man who in important ways remains tone-deaf.