Tory MPs call for freelance journalist to be removed from press gallery after tweet

Tory MPs are calling for an independent journalist to be removed from the parliamentary press gallery after he tweeted a comment they said risked provoking violence against politicians.

The issue boiled over for a moment during Question Period on Wednesday when Tory MP Garnett Genuis quoted the Queen band while asking a question about inflation. The reference to the Queen was a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was spotted singing Bohemian Rhapsody with members of the Canadian delegation last weekend ahead of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Dale Smith, an independent member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, then tweeted that « Genuis is trying to include the lyrics to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in his question, and I can’t tell you how lame it is. When the horses are so lame, you shoot them. »

Genuis rose in the House of Commons Thursday morning on a question of privilege. He called Smith’s comments « threatening » and beyond the bounds of normal political speech.

« In the current climate, we should all be aware of the risks associated with explicitly inciting violence against public officials, » said Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan MP.

Freelance journalist Dale Smith sent this tweet on September 21, 2022, which Tory MP Garnett Genuis calls « threatening ». (Screenshot by Dale Smith/Twitter)

« Some would say he’s joking, but the problem with so-called jokes involving threats to public officials is that I, as the target of those comments, [am] somehow expected to understand and agree with a threat based on someone’s presumed intentions. And I just don’t agree with that. »

Genuis said Smith’s accreditation in the press gallery gives him access to the West Block rooms. He called on the gallery to revoke those privileges.

“This current reality of access is impacting my ability to perform my duties as a member,” Genuis said.

He was backed by Conservative MP Raquel Dancho, the party’s public safety critic, and Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer in asking the Speaker to consider suspending Smith’s privileges pending an investigation into his should be permanently removed from the rostrum.

Assistant Vice President Carol Hughes said the president would look into the matter and come back with an answer.

Smith says he owes ‘no apologies’

In a blog post On Thursday morning, Smith called the tweet an « unoriginal joke » and denied that it was insinuating that Genuis needed to be put down.

« I did no such thing and I owe him no apology. On the contrary, he owes everyone an apology for subjecting us to his attempt to be clever with the lyrics of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, » he said. he wrote.

Smith then accused the Conservatives of playing « a game of intimidation ».

« If you criticize one member of their team, they declare that you are biased, even if you criticize every team, » he wrote.

« They’re screaming and moaning, hoping you’ll apologize and back down, and then they’ll know you’re weak and they can shut you up with those kinds of tactics. »

Reached Thursday afternoon, Smith said he was waiting to speak to the chairman of the press gallery before commenting further.

The back-and-forth comes as journalists — especially journalists of color — report an increase in harassment and abuse.

For weeks, several journalists have shared publicly a series of emails they received containing specific, targeted and disturbing threats of violence and sexual assault, as well as racist and misogynistic language.

Politicians have also been attacked in recent years. MPs on both sides of the aisle have condemned an incident last month in which Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland was loudly accosted in Alberta by a man who repeatedly shouted profanities at her and called her a traitor.

Last month, Trudeau urged political leaders to condemn acts of aggression and intimidation directed at politicians, warning that Canada may be forced to ‘rethink’ the ways in which elected officials and the public can safely interact. .

« We need to be able to have that connection that we’ve always been proud of. [on]Canadians who can be close to those who represent them,” Trudeau told reporters outside Rideau Hall.

« But the aggressive bullying and hate tactics of a small number of people are forcing us to rethink the freedoms we have had as parliamentarians. »

WATCH | Journalists of color say the death threats are part of a coordinated effort to silence them:

Journalists of color say death threats are part of a coordinated effort to silence them

Several journalists of color denounce the intensification of racist and sexually violent death threats they have received. They say it’s a coordinated and targeted effort to silence them and that the police aren’t doing enough.


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