TVO host Steve Paikin says the allegations of sexual harassment made against him by former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson are "complete fiction" and is vowing to fight to restore his reputation.
Publicly funded TVOntario announced on Monday that it had hired a lawyer to conduct an arm's-length investigation of the allegations, while leaving Mr. Paikin in his job.
The well-known broadcaster had initially declined on Monday to publicly address the allegations. But late Tuesday afternoon, in a Facebook post he said was written by himself at 4 a.m. and "not a committee of lawyers or spin doctors," he broke his silence.
"I've spent 35 years building my reputation. In one fell swoop, these lies have prompted outrageous headlines and connected me to a story to which I have no business being connected," Mr. Paikin wrote. "Well, all that ends today. Today, I begin to reclaim my reputation and fight back against these scurrilous allegations."
The allegations – made first in articles on Ms. Thomson's website, womenspost.ca, that thinly disguised his identity – are that Mr. Paikin, while having lunch at an upscale Toronto restaurant with her and her unnamed assistant during the 2010 mayoral campaign, demanded that she have sex with him in order to appear on his show.
She says she left the table and immediately phoned her campaign manager, who she didn't name, to tell him what happened. But two of her former campaign advisers, including one of her former campaign managers, say they have no recollection of any such incident.
Over the weekend, Ms. Thomson also sent Mr. Paikin an e-mail, demanding he step down. He provided the e-mail to TVO, he said, in the interest of transparency, and spent two hours answering questions from TVO management and its lawyers on Sunday.
In his Facebook post, Mr. Paikin says the allegations left him "gobsmacked" and that the events described by Ms. Thomson did not occur.
"I mean no harm to Sarah Thomson. But Sarah, you and I both know the incident you described never happened. It's complete fiction," Mr. Paikin wrote. "To be clear, I did not have sex, suggest, request, imply, or joke about having sex with you."
Mr. Paikin's post says he fears many will "believe the lie, especially when it comes to this subject," while also stating that "the #MeToo movement is too important to be undermined by spurious allegations."
But he says he has been heartened by the support he has received and TVO's decision to allow him to stay in his job, and that he welcomes the investigation.
"You've defamed me Sarah. I have no idea why, but you have. And I simply can't allow that to stand," Mr. Paikin writes. "The quest to reclaim my reputation, which you've tried to destroy, begins now. I look forward to vindication."
Ms. Thomson did not respond to requests for comment Monday and did not immediately respond to a voice-mail message on Tuesday. But she was on Twitter, commenting on Mr. Paikin's move.
"I didn't go public + I refused all media requests. Paikin went public he's obviously trying to scare other women into silence," Ms. Thomson said on Twitter. In another post on Twitter, she said: "It's a bit scary the number of men that are bashing me today."
Contacted by e-mail, Mr. Paikin would not say whether he intended to launch a defamation lawsuit against Ms. Thomson, and said he had not seen her Twitter comments: "The first piece of advice I was given was, don't read the papers, don't get on social media and don't watch the news. So I haven't. No clue what's going on out there but I've said what I wanted to. Period."