Jian Ghomeshi Sex Scandal: No More Shades of Grey?

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Jian Ghomeshi records a live show at Aladdin Theater on April 24, 2014 in Portland, Oregon.

UPDATE: Lawyer and author Reva Seth has put her name to the allegations

Eight women have now come forward with detailed and similar stories of sexual assault and harassment by former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) golden boy Jian Ghomeshi, including Trailer Park Boys' actress Lucy DeCoutere, the only woman to date who has put her name to the allegations. Another did a radio interview Wednesday with CBC’s As It Happens. Ghomeshi is believed to have left the country, spotted in Los Angeles.

Imagine warm and affable Fresh Air host Terry Gross ensnared in a lurid S&M sex scandal and you’d have a good sense of the public disbelief -- and indignation -- all over Canada over the firing by CBC of Ghomeshi and the mounting accusations of violence against women, including choking, face slapping, hitting and hair-yanking. The popular personality was dismissed abruptly from his daily syndicated talk show Q after the pubcaster received unspecified "information" about his private life.

The fireable offense was revealed to be accusations by a former girlfriend that Ghomeshi was physically violent with her, something the 47-year-old British-born Canadian didn’t exactly deny, but rather pointed out via a 1600-word Facebook post he had a taste for "rough sex" with consenting partners, and detailed previous escapades including "role-play, dominance and submission." Ghomeshi addressed his supporters in a Facebook post on Oct. 30: "I want to thank you for your support and assure you that I intend to meet these allegations directly. I don’t intend to discuss this matter any further with the media."

The Toronto Star, which has been leading reporting of the story, offered a contrasting narrative in a Oct. 26 piece, citing three anonymous women alleging unwanted violence during past sexual encounters with Ghomeshi; A fourth unnamed accuser, a CBC colleague, recalled unwelcome verbal come-ons and groping in the Q studio. Furthermore, journalist Jesse Brown, who co-authored the Star piece, tweeted on Oct. 28 that “more women have come forward to us.” That highly detailed story was published Wednesday evening (Oct. 27). None of the accusers have filed charges with the police.

Now the CBC has asked its employees to help with a widening internal probe into the popular radio host after his firing. "As part of our continuing investigation, we will take into account any new information that becomes available to us, either directly or indirectly," Roula Zaarour, CBC/Radio-Canada’s VP of people and culture, said in an internal memo obtained by Billboard. "When we identify behaviors or activities that are inconsistent with our established policies, we have a responsibility to take appropriate action, and we do," she added.

The controversy comes at an inopportune time for Ghoneshi, whose star was rising on American radio where Q is syndicated to 180 NPR/PRI stations. In the last 8 years, the former drummer and singer in novelty pop group Moxy Fruvous had interviewed Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty on the show. His handling of the cantankerous Billy Bob Thornton during a Q interview in 2009 helped launch Ghomeshi's fame outside Canada.

Prior to the Star’s even more explosive follow-up story, peers, colleagues, pundits and former friends were taking sides. Polaris Music Prize winner Owen Pallett denounced Ghomeshi’s actions on Facebook, writing, “At no point here will I ever give my friend Jian’s version of the truth more creedence than the version of the truth offered up by three women. Anonymity does not mean these women do not exist.” He concluded with “Jian Ghomeshi is my friend, and Jian Ghomeshi beats women. How our friendship will continue remains to be seen.”

On the flip side, synth-pop artist Lights, who has been managed by Ghomeshi for the past 12 years, writes of her experience: “Jian is not an example of someone who is abusive or misogynistic, in fact, he has always preached to the empowerment and limitless strength of women to me… It is not my business or anyone else's what someone does in their private time and it's unfair that his is being broadcast to the world. For shame.”

How Lights -- and other supporters -- now feel in light of the new allegations remains to be seen.

Marusya Bociurkiw, associate professor of media theory at Ryerson University in Toronto, cautions against getting caught up in the tabloid frenzy over a scandal-plagued radio host whose fans cling to him as a hero while detractors wait for more shoes to drop. "This has nothing to do with whether these allegations have been proven in a court of law -- statistically, the law is rarely on the side of sexually abused women, particularly in this sort of celebrity situation," Bociurkiw tells Billboard. “There is an ethical mode of journalistic enquiry and I think it's up to all of us to set the proper tone.”

As for Q, the CBC is currently trying out a rotation of guest hosts until a more permanent solution can be reached.


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