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Canada Calgary Herald column on how Kavanaugh ‘doesn’t deserve this' triggers backlash from city councillors

A Calgary Herald newspaper column on sexual misconduct accusations against U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh has prompted two women on Calgary city council to shun interview requests from the paper.

In her Wednesday column headlined “Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve this. What happened in high school stays in high school,” Naomi Lakritz wrote that the #MeToo movement has created the equivalent of a Salem witch trial for Justice Kavanaugh.

The column triggered a backlash on social media, including Twitter announcements from councillors Jyoti Gondek and Druh Farrell that they would not accept interview requests from the paper until the column was retracted and an apology issued.

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In a statement to CTV Calgary, Herald editor-in-chief Lorne Motley said freedom of speech is important and the columnist’s role at a newspaper is to express an opinion.

Three women have come forward since Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced with allegations that include sexual assault, indecent exposure and sexual misconduct.

One of them – Christine Blasey Ford – testified before a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday that the nominee assaulted her in 1982, but Justice Kavanaugh disputed the accusation when he later appeared before the panel.

In her tweet, Ms. Gondek wrote that, while she is not a “big newsmaker,” she will not be replying to interview requests from Calgary Herald journalists “until the editorial board recognizes the impact of their decision to minimize the gravity of high school sexual assault.”

Ms. Farrell said in her posting that, although the newspaper has some great writers, “I can’t stand by while sexual assault is trivialized. I stand with my colleague [Gondek] in support of women. I won’t be taking interview requests until they retract and apologize.”

Other social media postings have called for the cancellation of Herald subscriptions, or the pulling of advertising.

Early Thursday afternoon, Ms. Lakritz issued a statement to CTV Calgary saying she was not weighing in on whether Justice Kavanaugh is guilty or not.

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“I obviously don’t have any knowledge of that. What I’m saying is that whatever someone allegedly did as a 15-year-old should not count against him when he’s a man of 53, decades removed from the teenager he once was. Were we all perfect angels at 15? I doubt it. Would we want something we may have done at 15 to affect our lives as mature adults at 40 or 50? Obviously not.”

Ms. Lakritz said the councillors who have decided to boycott the paper’s reporters “are obviously sadly unaware of the principles of free speech.”

The Herald said in its Friday edition that its editorial pages reflect a variety of opinions, with the goal of stirring debate.

“We do believe in open debate, vigorous dialogue and free speech, including – of course – for those people who have been subjected to sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Those who stand up to their abusers and those who share their stories should be applauded, not shouted down. Their decisions to speak their truth are actions that merit consideration and respect.”

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