In a lengthy decision the CBC ombudsman has concluded that The network made errors in its coverage of public backlash against a re-post made of a Toronto Sun article by Alberta Member of Parliament Rachael Harder. What prompted CBC’s article was a post on Harder’s Facebook page. In that post, she had shared a Nov. 17th 2020 article published in the Toronto Sun. The Sun article, by columnist Anthony Furey, focused on provincial statistics in Alberta which showed that the vast majority of the 369 Albertans who had died from COVID-19 at that point had suffered from other pre-existing health issues (“comorbidities”) as well. Harder had reposted the story without comment.
The repost triggered negative social media reaction and it was the reaction to the post that led to CBC running the story. A doctor was quoted as saying “I think the big message that it sends is that this member of Parliament really has very little respect for human life.” Another person, Sune White interviewed for the story said, ““I do take it personally, if she implies that people with pre-existing conditions are less important,” and “it seems as if our officials feel that it’s OK that so many people died, simply because they have pre-existing conditions.” In her complaint the MP wrote, “by selecting this quote, the CBC is again choosing to damage my reputation by publishing an accusation that is unfounded. Never have I said anything close to what Ms. White is accusing me of stating, nor does the Sun News article convey the message Ms. White is insinuating.”
Prior to going to the CBC ombudsman, Harder first complained to the newsroom manager sending a lengthy written refutation of the CBC story. She wrote, “ I was asked to provide comment and did so by submitting one-page worth of commentary. In a three-page article, with multiple quotes and opinions from critics, only ONE LINE was a quote from me. “
MP Harder was re-elected last Monday with more than 50 percent of the vote in her Lethbridge riding.
The Ombudsman concluded that the newsroom had not handled the story properly on a number of fronts and its response to the MPs complaints was inadequate. The complete report can be found here.