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Ezra Levant’s ‘slut’ comment may have been juvenile, but Trudeau’s response is wrong

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks with the media following party caucus Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ezra Levant is a clown who loves nothing more than being in the middle of his own three-ring circus. But that doesn't mean we should let a politician try to silence him and his colleagues.

On Tuesday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pouted that he would "not engage" with any outlet belonging to Sun Media, after Levant aired a five-minute segment on his Sun News TV show The Source gleefully mocking the sex lives of Trudeau's parents. The loose news peg for Levant's rant, which ran more than a week ago, was a photograph of Trudeau kissing the cheek of a bride whose wedding party he apparently ran into during the recent Ontario Liberal Party annual general meeting, held at a hotel and conference centre in Markham.

In the photograph, which was tweeted out by Trudeau's photographer Adam Scotti, the bride and her seven maids of honour are smiling; whatever your politics, the women seem to regard the photograph as a sweet memento of a special day.

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Levant didn't see it that way, and he gallantly marched in to defend the honour of the lady, who apparently could not speak for herself.

"I suppose what you think of this photo depends in part on what you think of weddings, and marriages, and fidelity and faithfulness. If they're no big deal to you, this photo is no big deal, right?" he yelped. "The idea of the nobleman of the estate, riding through like in medieval times to deflower whatever maidens he wanted, that's still there in Trudeau."

And then he brought up Trudeau's parents. "Both Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau were promiscuous, and publicized how many conquests they had. They didn't even pretend to keep their oaths to each other," he charged. "Liona Boyd, Margot Kidder, Kim Cattrall — (Pierre) banged anyone. He was a slut." Of Margaret: "She wasn't much different, and reportedly tended toward rock musicians."

"Now, if that's your moral compass, then kissing another man's bride on her wedding day is pretty cool."

(Ishmael Daro, a blogger for Postmedia's Canada.com, nailed the segment perfectly with his Onion-like headline: "Local man yells at photo for 5 minutes".)

Levant repurposed his outrage, and many of the same words, for a column in the Sun newspapers which ran a few days later.

All of this was apparently too much for Trudeau, who declared through a spokesperson on Tuesday that Sun Media "crossed the line by airing a personal attack on the Trudeau family that was offensive and breached any reasonable measure of editorial integrity." The Liberal Leader apparently intends to boycott the Sun chain, which publishes three dozen daily newspapers and more than 200 other publications, until the matter is "resolved." It is unclear exactly what that means.

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It would be tempting for other journalists to look the other way. The so-called "Media Party" is one of Levant's favourite targets. Indeed, he alleged in the Trudeau segment that the Canadian media swooned over the photo, despite no evidence for the claim.

(He has a habit of making up stuff and not bothering to check the facts when they clash with the story he wants to tell. In fact, though he said the wedding party was surely outraged when Trudeau "pushed himself" into the photo, the groom's father wrote on Facebook that Levant couldn't have been more wrong, and that the family was "thrilled to have a picture with the future Prime Minister of Canada.")

His comments on Trudeau were juvenile and unwarranted, and if we had a more lively range of TV pundits in this country then someone would surely say, tongue only slightly in cheek, that the millionaire Levant's values are not shared by most hard-working and patriotic Canadians.

But when a politician cuts off access to select media, it is an affront to everyone. Sun Media has hundreds of dedicated professionals who work hard every day on behalf of millions of readers (and a few thousand viewers of Sun News). Trudeau's impetuous move signals a disdain for them all, and carries an implicit warning that he might bar other media outlets who run afoul of him. We already have a Prime Minister obsessed with controlling the message. Trudeau does himself, and all Canadians, a disservice.

And Levant, of course, is eating it up.

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