The Vassy Kapelos Show is a talk show on which the host and guests discuss current events. It is broadcast at 1:30 pm weekdays on CFRA (Ottawa). One of the topics discussed on April 3, 2023 was former United States president Donald Trump who was appearing in a New York court that day after being indicted on issues related to campaign financing.
Host Vassy Kapelos interviewed former chief White House ethics lawyer and professor of law, Richard Painter, who explained the legal aspects of the case.
Later, during a segment called the “Daily Debrief Panel”, Kapelos and a group of commentators discussed the matter. They talked about whether the indictment and some of Trump’s other past actions would affect his future political prospects. At one point, panellist Tom Mulcair, who is a CTV political analyst and former federal NDP leader, made the following comment:
But there’s some serious stuff that happened. There were police officers killed on January 6th. There were attempts to ta-, he talked directly to the most highest people in the administration of the state of Georgia and tried to get them to find votes so that he could overturn the result of the election. That’s the serious stuff. Will his fan base just say it doesn’t matter? Yes.
With his mention of “January 6th”, Mulcair was referring to January 6, 2021. On that date, a group of Trump supporters rioted at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC to protest the outcome of the 2020 US election. Donald Trump had lost the election to Joe Biden, but alleged that this was due to election interference. The riot caused considerable chaos and destruction at the Capitol and some people felt that Trump’s public statements prior to the event had encouraged the behaviour of the rioters, such that Trump should be charged with incitement.
Towards the end of the program, there was a segment called “Fact Check”. Kapelos stated, “I also want to do a fact check on what’s happening with Donald Trump.” She updated listeners on Trump’s arrival in New York and summarized some of the points that had been made during the program. With respect to the January 6, 2021 incident, she said,
We heard from Richard Painter who’s the former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, also a professor of law. He flagged what I think a lot of people politically are talking about, which is that there are many other very significant investigations underway into former president Trump’s behaviour, specifically with relation to January 6th and the insurrection that happened at Capitol Hill and his, the allegation that he helped incite that. But also, a conversation he had, uh, with a Georgia official about the election outcome in that state. And so, uh, Richard Painter points out, uh, that, you know, those, those investigations are taking a while, particularly the Department of Justice into what happened in January 6th.
(A full transcript of the relevant segments can be found in Appendix A.)
On April 5, 2023, the CBSC received a complaint about the statement made during The Vassy Kapelos Show that police officers had died on January 6, 2021 at the Capitol riot in Washington, DC. The complainant wrote, “This was a patently false statement that she allowed to be broadcast on her show by one of her guests. It has been reported for over two years now that no police officer died at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.” The complainant wrote that the only people who died at the Capitol on January 6 were Trump supporters. The listener also noted that when Kapelos announced she was going to do a “fact check” at the end of the program, the listener had expected Kapelos to clarify the incorrect information, but she did not. The complainant suggested that this constituted a breach of the CAB Code of Ethics and that “There is no excuse for such verifiably false information to be broadcast to the public as fact on our airways [sic] two years after the event.”
CFRA responded to the complainant on May 9. The station pointed out that there had been speculation and misinformation about one police officer’s death. Officer Brian Sicknick had been involved in confronting the Capitol rioters on January 6, 2021 and the following day suffered two strokes and died. The broadcaster quoted a statement from the Capitol police chief attributing Sicknick’s death to his actions at the riot, as well as from the medical examiner who had told a newspaper that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”
The complainant filed her Ruling Request on May 14. She stated that she agreed that there had been speculation over the officer’s death in the days following the riot, but the “Washington, DC Chief Medical Examiner stated that Officer Sicknick died of natural causes from a stroke on January 7, 2021 while also confirming there was no evidence of either internal or external injuries.” She reiterated that this had been public information for over two years. She pointed out that Mulcair’s statement was therefore “blatantly false”, especially since he used the word “officers” in the plural, implying that more than one officer had died. (The full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B.)
The English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics:
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation
It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster. This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.
RTNDA Code of Journalistic Ethics, Article 1.0 – Accuracy
We are committed to journalism in the public interest that is accurate and reliable. Journalists will strive to verify facts and put them in context.
1.3 Errors and inaccuracy that affect the understanding of a news story will be unambiguously and promptly corrected.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to a recording of the challenged broadcast. The majority of the Panel concludes that CFRA breached Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics for the statement about police officers dying at the January 6, 2021 event at the Washington, DC Capitol Building. Two adjudicators dissent on that point. The Panel unanimously concludes that CFRA breached Article 1.3 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics for failing to clarify the facts of the situation.
The questions presented to the Panel were as follows:
1) Did Tom Mulcair’s statement regarding the death of officers on January 6, 2021 at the DC Capitol Building constitute an inaccuracy under Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics?
2) If the Panel finds a breach for inaccuracy, did CFRA violate Article 1.3 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics for failing to correct the error?
The events of January 6, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC were covered extensively by the news media worldwide. The riots were chaotic and for the following weeks, months, and years led to much speculation as to what happened and to whom. Many investigations ensued, not only to shed light on the events of that day but to try to determine who were the individuals responsible for what is now commonly called the January 6 “insurrection”. Every component and detail of this event have been news fodder.
Many of the news reports and several formal investigations have looked at the role President Trump had in the insurrection. The discussion that day on the Vassy Kapelos Show involved the indictment against Trump related to payments made to former porn star Stormy Daniels and the possible implications in terms of campaign finance law.
Trump has courted and received widespread news media attention from the day he came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower and announced his candidacy for the presidency on June 16, 2015. This news coverage covers the entire spectrum of the political landscape. Based on the complaints received by the CBSC over the years, many of the complainants have interpreted this coverage to be either pro-Trump or anti-Trump.
It appears that the landscape is changing as to the polarity and weaponization of news and news-talk programs which is an increasingly problematic issue for the broadcast industry. When covering polarizing news, broadcasters often look to its host or commentators to shed some light on how to interpret these events. Both hosts and commentators may provide varying views on the facts of an event. This is acceptable. However, accuracy is a key means by which to distinguish solid journalism with the ever prevalent unchecked social media commentary.
The CBSC has a long history of dealing with complaints about inaccuracy and some of these complaints have raised concerns regarding the coverage of Trump in both news and non-news programs. Where the complaint relates to an inaccuracy in a non-news program, the CBSC applies Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics. CBSC precedents have stated that talk shows are allowed to contain a variety of opinions, including ones that are controversial, unpopular or provocative. The fact that they are opinion-based programs, however, does not entitle them to present inaccurate facts. In contrast, the CBSC has acknowledged that talk shows need not provide in-depth nuances to complex issues; it has found no breach where the inaccuracies or omissions were insignificant or immaterial to the discussion.
Accuracy and talk show programs
In CKTB-AM re The John Michael Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0170, February 15, 1994), the Panel considered the complex question of the responsibilities of broadcasters airing open-line programs. In this case, the host’s topic related to questions of bilingualism and French Canadians. He made statements such as “all our government buildings are in Quebec, our civil service is in Quebec, uh, this country’s headquarters is in Quebec”, that all Cabinet sessions are conducted in French and that all Canadian ambassadors are French. The Panel found that the host’s “comments were riddled with a multiplicity of factual inaccuracies, many of which were of the most elementary nature.” The Panel found the station in breach of Clause 6 of the Code of Ethics:
The CBSC is conscious of the importance of free debate and the entitlement of a host to express politically contentious points of view on air. That liberty does not, however, extend to the expression of gross and multiple misstatements of fact which are calculated to distort the perspective of the listener. [...]
The CBSC does, however, not believe that the public debate in Canada is furthered in any way by the broadcast of such accumulated misinformation as was emitted by Mr. Michael on June 1. [...]
It is the view of the Council that accumulated misinformation, and collective unresearched and inaccurate statements constitute a breach of high standard under the Broadcasting Act and a breach of the responsibility of the broadcaster to ensure the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial” as required by Clause 6 [...] of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The CBSC dealt with a complaint about an editorial segment in another open-line show in CILQ-FM re John Derringer’s “Tool of the Day” (CBSC Decision 02/03-1465, February 10, 2004). Each day, radio commentator John Derringer selected a figure in the news who had done something with which Derringer disagreed to be his “tool of the day”. Derringer performed an editorial piece commenting on the individual’s actions. In the broadcast in question, Derringer targetted a judge who had issued what Derringer felt was too light a sentence for a child pornography crime. Derringer provided the judge’s name and called him a “disgrace” to the justice system. Derringer stated that “we don’t have laws similar to those in Britain and the United States where, to the best of my knowledge, what this guy did would be an automatic ten-year sentence”. The Panel acknowledged that the host was legitimately permitted to express his point of view on this legal topic but found a breach of Clause 6 for Derringer’s inaccurate exaggeration of the penalties found in other countries:
As a general principle, this Panel underscores the common generic perspective of CBSC Panels that electronic editorializing, like that in the print media, has the potential of being of great benefit and importance to broadcasters and audiences alike. At its best, when properly presented, it can be stimulating, thought-provoking, reaction-generating (pro or con) and helpful to the generation of opinion in the general populace.
The Panel, however, accords great importance to the adverb “properly” for it is not just any expression of opinion that carries virtue in its words and ideas. The expression of opinion should be deft and measured. It should stimulate by the responsibility of its presentation. It need not rabble-rouse to be effective. [...]
By simply using the phrase “to the best of my knowledge”, he cannot duck responsibility for the bold assertion that “what this guy did would be an automatic ten-year sentence in the States or in England.” Despite his focussed statement, he did not look at Section 2252(b)(2) of Title 18 of the (federal) United States Code. Had he done so, he would have learned that a person convicted under Section 2252(a)(4) “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.” Had he verified the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act, 2000 of the United Kingdom, he would have found that 5 years is also the maximum sentence in that jurisdiction. The same is true under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998 in Ireland, where, like Canada, there is the possibility of conviction either as an indictable offence or as the less punitive offence punishable on summary conviction. Now, the Ontario Regional Panel has no more sympathy for the criminal offender than the judge or Derringer had but the broadcaster’s approach was not reasoned; it was unduly exaggerated. Before flailing his verbal arms, he owed it to his listeners to have presented his underlying legal facts with greater accuracy.
As noted earlier, talk shows generate many complaints related to accuracy. In CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (the Qur’an) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1380, May 18, 2006), the Panel dealt with an episode of an open-line radio program that discussed issues related to Islam and the Qur’an. The host talked about a news report relating to the arrest of men linked to al Qaeda who were living in Canada. He also read a letter by a university professor that had appeared in the National Post. That letter stated that the Qur’an and other Muslim religious texts proclaim that anyone who converts from Islam to another religion should be killed. The letter was written in light of a case in Afghanistan where a man had been sentenced to death for apostasy. Green pointed out that there was no such similar advocation of violence in the Christian Bible’s New Testament. Green suggested that all Muslim immigrants be asked if they believed in that provision of the Qur’an. Eventually in the course of the program, Green obtained a copy of the Qur’an and claimed that it indeed stated that apostates should be killed. He invited Muslim listeners to call in and explain this view, but when they did call he cut them off and insisted that many radical Muslims clearly advocated killing apostates and other violent acts. A listener complained that comparing the Qur’an and New Testament in such a manner had the potential to incite hatred against Muslims. The Panel concluded that Green was free to criticize the religious “policies” of Islam; his comments about Muslims were on the edge of acceptability, but did not reach the level of abusive comment. The Panel did, however, find a breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics for Green’s reliance on a misquoted portion of the Qur’an:
The issue for the Panel is that a part, the non-opinion part, of the content required accuracy and, on this point, the host, Lowell Green, declared firmly and unequivocally that the was quoting from the Qur’an.
The issue is, as presaged above, that the “quotation” from the Qur’an is incorrect. The words “Kill him who changes his religion” are simply not in the Qur’an. The broadcaster had its own obligation to be certain, at material times, of the accuracy of the material on which it was relying. Its failure to do so resulted in a construct of an argument or position that appeared to be more defensible than it was. [...] Their failure to present the audience with accurate information about the content of the Qur’an was misleading and unfair. They loaded the dice without disclosing the fact that they had done so, even if that choice was unintentional. In the end, the broadcaster’s constant reliance on misquoted text from the Qur’an and refusal to bend when advised of the error by Muslim callers rendered the presentation neither full, fair nor proper, and consequently in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
In the context of a right-wing talk show examined in CHRB-AM (AM 1140) re an episode of Freedom Radio Network (CBSC Decision 05/06-1959, January 9, 2007), the two hosts discussed a complaint that had been brought against them and their sponsor organization, Concerned Christians Canada, at the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging abusive remarks on the basis of sexual orientation. The complaint to the CBSC came from the individual who had filed the Human Rights Commission complaint. He was concerned that the hosts had uttered abusive comments against homosexuals, insulted him on air and made inaccurate statements about the Human Rights Commission case. For example, the hosts alleged that they had been accused of a “hate crime” and that the courts had given them the right to publish information about the case. The Panel found those inaccuracies in violation of Clause 6:
Among other things, they distorted the nature of the acts of the complainant in a serious way. They said that they had been accused of a “hate crime”. By that, a reasonably informed individual would have understood one of the two crimes under the Hate Propaganda sections of the Criminal Code, likely, that entitled “Public Incitement of Hatred”. The reality is that complaints were made to the Alberta Human Rights Commission and to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Neither complaint, if pursued to its logical conclusion, would be characterized as a crime.
In the matter at hand, not only was there no assertion of a crime by the complainant, but there was also misinformation provided by the co-hosts regarding the substance of what they had “won” and where. Leaving aside the ill-informed references to the legitimately constituted federal and provincial Human Rights Commissions, the co-hosts said that they “fought and won in court the right to actually post the information about the ongoing Commission and then the hearings on the website and the courts, the courts, the real courts […] not the kangaroo courts.” They did not. Unless there is some other decision to which none of the parties had referred in this dossier, the only decision in question was that rendered by the Human Rights Panels of Alberta and issued by the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, not a court at all in the sense that the co-hosts had been distinguishing commissions or tribunals from courts.
It was not, however, a court, as represented by the co-hosts. Nor was the application related to a hate crime, as intimated. Nor did the application give the respondent any entitlement to post material other than that of the human rights complainant, as also intimated.
The CBSC dealt with 14 episodes of a religious program hosted by Christian leader Charles McVety in CITS-TV re Word.ca and Word TV (CBSC Decision 08/09-2142 & 09/10-0383+, June 22, 2010). The program featured McVety talking about recent news events with considerable focus on legislation being proposed by the Canadian and Ontario governments. The host sometimes had a guest on to discuss the issues with him. The CBSC received numerous complaints from a single complainant who expressed concerns about the program’s treatment of a number of different issues, including homosexuality, Islam, euthanasia and Haiti. The host made a number of statements to support his views, such as that the Ontario and Alberta Human Rights Tribunals have a “100% conviction rate”, that government Bill C-250 made it “a crime to speak against homosexuality”, and that a proposed revision to the Ontario school curriculum would teach children “how to be” homosexuals. While the Panel found that McVety was fully entitled to state his opinions on these various subjects, he made some abusive comments about homosexuals that contravened the Human Rights Clause and he violated Clause 6 for presenting factual errors:
In dealing with both the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC), host McVety has either carelessly or purposefully misled his audience when he referred (in both cases) to the “one hundred per cent conviction rate” of both regulatory bodies. The Panel assumes that the host was, on that basis, attempting to impugn any decision emanating from those tribunals as unfair, biased, distorted and unworthy of the public’s trust. Leaving aside the host’s mistaken (and judgment-laden) use of the words “convict” and “conviction” in this context, whatever his motivation, his allegation of an undisputed, unmarred “conviction” record is incorrect and misleading to Word TV’s viewers.
The Panel also commented on the host’s presentation of Bill C-250 and the Ontario curriculum revisions:
The single most egregious and misleading assertion by host McVety was his November 8 assertion that, in his words, “it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality. Yes, I said a crime. Bill C-250 went through our Parliamentary system and made it a crime for anyone to speak against sexual orientation.” That is wrong. All Bill C-250 did was to add to the list of protected categories of identifiable groups in Sec. 318(4) (namely, “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin”) and, by reference, Sec. 319(1) and 319(2) of the Criminal Code, the words “or sexual orientation”. In other words, the substance of the Criminal Code provisions dealing with the advocating of genocide and the public incitement of hatred remained unchanged. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Bill C-250 only renders the genocide and hate provisions consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which, nearly ten years before, had read “sexual orientation” into Sec. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its decision Egan v. Canada  2 S.C.R. 513 [...].
It is the view of the Panel that the host’s statement that “it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality” is factually incorrect and misleading to the audience. It is a gross distortion of the serious reason for the creation of a protection in the criminal law in order to give effect to the Parliamentary goal of prohibiting the incitement of hatred against identifiable groups. Any broadcaster may disagree with the adoption of such a criminal remedy by the Government, but, once adopted, no broadcaster ought to distort its meaning or effect. It would be correct to assert that “it is now a crime to incite hatred against homosexuals” (in the circumscribed conditions of the Section); it is not correct to assert that “it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality.”
Where the talk show host corrects the error on air, the CBSC will find a breach but not require further action. This was the case in Sun News Network re The Source (Idle No More) (CBSC Decision 12/13-0985, October 23, 2013). The network had been covering the Indigenous protest movement known as Idle No More. A group of protestors assembled outside the Toronto offices of the station to protest what they viewed as biased coverage. The Source host Ezra Levant went outside to talk to the protestors and he broadcast footage of those interactions on his program a few days later. Following that broadcast, he received feedback from viewers, including supposed identification of some of the protestors. Levant replayed the footage on a subsequent episode and stated the alleged names and backgrounds of some of the protestors featured in the clips. The complaint came from a woman whom Levant had claimed was in one of the clips along with her husband and had characterized as non-Indigenous “professional disrupters” who were using the Idle No More movement to “create their ruckus”. She stated that she and her husband had not attended the protest and had not even been in Toronto at the time. The Panel concluded that the misidentification of the protestors breached Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, but Levant had acknowledged his error on a subsequent episode.
Finally, minor errors do not constitute a breach of the code as explained in CHKT-AM re comments made on Home Sweet Home (CBSC Decision 11/12-1750, November 16, 2012). The Panel examined a Cantonese-language program that focused on real estate and household design. On an episode that aired on Easter Sunday, the host made a few comments about Easter in his introduction. He stated that ambulances feature a cross because of the cross’s connection to the saving and healing message of Jesus Christ. A listener complained that this statement was inaccurate. In fact, a red cross appears on ambulances and other medical facilities because a red cross on a white background is the symbol of the Red Cross Society. That symbol was chosen at the 1864 Geneva Convention and some sources contend that it was chosen to honour the host country of Switzerland whose national flag is a white cross on a red background. The Panel noted that research indicated that the complainant’s assertions about the origin of the medical cross were accurate and the host’s statement thus somewhat inaccurate, but that this minor error did not constitute a breach of the code:
According to the online and print sources that the CBSC consulted in this matter, it appears that the complainant’s contention about the cross is accurate. The cross was not chosen to be a symbol of medicine because of its connection to Jesus’s crucifixion and his healing message. Rather it was chosen as a symbol of medicine, and thus to appear on ambulances and other medical-related objects, because it was the symbol of the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross]. The red equilateral cross on white background was chosen as a protective emblem at the 1864 Geneva Convention. The emblem is the reverse of Switzerland’s national flag and, according to the ICRC, this design was chosen to honour the host country of the first Geneva Convention. Although there is no explicit mention of the Red Cross being chosen due to its links with Christianity, some non-Christian countries were concerned that it would be viewed as a Christian symbol, so in 1878, the ICRC acknowledged that non-Christian countries could adopt other symbols for the same purpose. This led to the adoption of other equivalent symbols, such as the Red Crescent in most Muslim countries, Red Shield of David in Israel and the Red Crystal which is intended to be a neutral symbol.
All of that research suggests that [the host]’s statement to the effect that the Christian cross was adapted to represent saving people and that is why is appears on ambulances was a simplistic, incomplete and largely inaccurate statement.
That being said, it is not every inadvertent error that will constitute a breach of the Code. This inaccuracy appears to have been a honest mistake or misunderstanding about the history of the cross. Moreover, this topic did not form the substance of the program; it was merely introductory commentary in relation to Easter and was intended to provide the audience with some light information or trivia about the day. It did not constitute an egregious misrepresentation of a vitally important fact in the context of this program.
Broadcasters must exhibit care and diligence in their presentation of all facts, particularly those which are easily verifiable. The Panel agrees with the complainant that program hosts are often viewed by their audiences as authoritative sources of information. It would have been useful had CHKT AM1430 provided a more accurate, comprehensive and fuller explanation of the origin of the cross on ambulances, but the error or misinterpretation in this case did not reach the level of code breach.
Correction of Errors
Article 1.3 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics requires that errors be “unambiguously and promptly corrected”. The CBSC generally applies the RTDNA Code to news reports, but it has sometimes applied relevant clauses to other types of information programming. Where the broadcaster corrects the error shortly after the erroneous broadcast, the CBSC has observed that the requirement to correct errors has been met.
This was the case in CFRA-AM re the Mark Sutcliffe and Lowell Green Shows (CBSC Decisions 96/97-0083, 0084 & -0085, May 8, 1997), where the Panel dealt with the erroneous use of the qualifying adjective “Jamaican” in relation to a person who was in fact St. Lucian. The Panel stated:
Of the principal issues raised by the complaint, the first relates to the identification of Mr. Nicholls as “Jamaican”. This occurred to a much less significant extent than has been suggested in the letter of complaint. The characterization of Mr. Nicholls as “Jamaican” did not last for more than 30 minutes of the first of the three programs being reviewed here. It appears to have been an honest error and one which, in any event, was corrected by Mr. Sutcliffe himself as quickly as the information became available to him. It does not constitute a breach of either the CAB or the RTNDA Codes of Ethics.
It was also the case in Sun News Network re The Source (Edmonton Artists’ Housing) (CBSC Decision 10/11-2102 & -2124, March 28, 2012). The Panel dealt with a segment on a public affairs discussion program. Host Ezra Levant and his guest commentator, Kathryn Marshall, talked about public funding for the arts and specifically a housing program in Edmonton called Arts Habitat which provides housing and studio space to artists. Arts Habitat receives money from the Alberta provincial and Edmonton municipal governments. The host and guest objected to government funding for these types of programmes. Levant repeatedly referred to the housing as “free”. Marshall primarily used the word “subsidized”, but on one occasion even she used the word “free”. The CBSC received complaints, pointing out that the housing is not “free”; artists pay rent to live there. Two days later, Levant read an e-mail from a viewer which pointed out this error. The Panel found a violation of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics for the inaccuracy, but concluded that the station respected the Corrections article (Article 7 at the time) of the RTDNA Code of Ethics by clarifying the information two days later:
On July 6, two days after the program at issue containing his assertions had aired, host Ezra Levant read an e-mail on the air that faulted him for not having verified the accuracy of his information, and pointed out, among other things, that the Arts Habitat program is a subsidized housing and studio program and not a free housing program. The host admitted his error, adding that his opinion remained unchanged with respect to public funding of subsidies for artists.
While the host did not act proactively, and half-heartedly recognized his error only in response to an e-mail pointing it out, the Panel members recognized that he did do so quickly and publicly in accordance with Article 7 of the RTDNA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.
Panel’s majority finding on the issue of accuracy
As was explained earlier, there was extensive and often confusing media coverage worldwide on the events of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. This confusion was certainly evident in relation to the death of Officer Sicknick on January 7, 2021. Early reporting on Sicknick’s death speculated that he had died on Capitol Hill the day of the insurrection with the New York Times reporting erroneously that protestors had bludgeoned him with a fire extinguisher.
In the following days, it was thought by numerous parties, including the US Capitol Police Chief that Sicknick’s death, although it occurred on January 7, was attributable to the altercations on January 6. It was only later (April 19, 2021), that the DC Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that the manner of the officer’s death was “natural” and specifically attributable to two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by an artery clot.
The extensive coverage of this event and, in fact, of any event linked to Trump in the last eight years has often led to the interpretation of these events by hosts and commentators with varying results on whether one should consider Trump in a positive or negative light. These widespread opinions, or interpretations of events, are not problematic in and of themselves under the various codes administered by the CBSC, as long as they are neither hateful, nor abusive, and where they are factually correct.
The complainant takes issue with the fact that Mr. Mulcair stated that “There were police officers killed on January 6.” Mr. Mulcair was a guest commentator on The Vassy Kapelos Show on April 3, 2023. The discussion centered around Trump and his forthcoming indictment in relation to a payment made to Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 US elections. Mr. Mulcair spoke of Trump in the following terms:
He completely dominates a news cycle. And he’s been doing it for years. To, to Tim’s point, that’s what this guy is a genius at. And so, I think that, as we watch this roll out, I mean, forget about everything else tomorrow, Tuesday. And, you know, anything that you’re going to be doing on radio, anything that I’m going to be doing on French TV or something like that, we’re going to open up with Trump. It’s just going to be the thing that everybody talks about. [...] But at the end of the day, there are some serious charges being laid against him, that are being prepared, I believe. And I look at the porn star nonsense and it’s, this is the type of stuff that reflects on Trump the person. We, we know that he’s that guy, you know, that will stand in front of a church with the Bible after that. I mean, you know, this is, this is the actor that we’ve grown used to. But there’s some serious stuff that happened. There were police officers killed on January 6th. There were attempts to ta-, he talked directly to the most highest people in the administration of the state of Georgia and tried to get them to find votes so that he could overturn the result of the election. That’s the serious stuff. Will his fan base just say it doesn’t matter? Yes. They’re going to just say it’s part of the swamp. These are the people that Trump is going to be re-elected to take care of and, you know, seek revenge. This is the crazy part of this cycle that we’re in right now. And I don’t think that they’re going to change it anytime soon. And it’s certainly not what’s going to happen tomorrow that will change anything.
Following the discussion on Trump, the host stated that “I also want to do a fact check on what’s happening with Donald Trump.” She went on to detail what was happening that day in New York City as Trump was due to land in that city to answer the indictment relating to the Stormy Daniels payment. No correction was made regarding the Tom Mulcair statement relating to the death of police officers.
The majority of the Panel considers that Mr. Mulcair’s statement regarding the death of officers on January 6, 2021 was inaccurate. This statement was not only incorrect, it was made almost two years after the DC Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that the manner of the Officer Sicknick’s death was “natural” and specifically attributable to two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by an artery clot.
The unequivocal fact is no police officers died on January 6, 2021, and Officer Sicknick, according to the DC Chief Medical Examiner died on January 7, 2021 of “natural” causes although there is an ongoing debate as to whether the altercations on January 6 contributed to the cause of this officer’s death. This officer’s death was widely covered by news outlets and it has triggered an ongoing debate in the news media regarding the cause of his death. Officer Sicknick’s death was a verifiable fact. This means that it was incorrect to claim that officers died on January 6, 2021 on Capitol Hill. The public is entitled to expect that hosts and commentators will convey accurate information. This was not the case as it relates to the death of officers on that fateful day.
Mr. Mulcair’s commentary, which was opinion-based, was otherwise acceptable under the applicable broadcast codes. The CBSC has stated that hosts and commentators are free to express their viewpoint and that editorializing when properly presented “can be stimulating, thought-provoking, reaction-generating (pro or con) and helpful to the generation of opinion in the general populace.”1 However, these opinions and comments need to be based on accurate facts.
Accordingly, the majority of the Panel finds that the comment regarding the death of officers on January 6, 2021 at the DC Capitol Building constitutes an inaccuracy contrary to Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
Dissenting opinion of S. Simpson and R. Waksman
The death of Officer Sicknick on January 7, 2021 became a major talking point which was hotly debated by both Democrats and Republicans. The debate hinged on the fact that the DC Chief Medical Examiner concluded that the manner of the officer’s death was “natural” and specifically attributable to two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by an artery clot. The DC Chief Medical Examiner also noted that Sicknick had engaged the rioters and said “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”2 Both camps grabbed hold of this notation and, as a result, gave widely varying interpretations of the officer’s cause of death on news media and social media platforms.
In our view, it is not possible to definitively conclude whether or not the January 6 events contributed to Officer Sicknick’s death. Is it possible that only one day after the event that the stress and excitement experienced by Sicknick could have contributed to his having a stroke and dying? We believe so. Certainly some neurologists that appeared on CNN did not think the strokes were natural and that stress and traumatic events can lead to a stroke3. Accordingly, such an interpretation is plausible and, in fact, this interpretation has been widely disseminated in various news media platforms. But as stated earlier, it is not possible to make a definitive finding in this regard one way or the other.
Although it is correct to state that technically no officer died on January 6, 2021 and certainly Republican rhetoric hinges on this fact, the Democrats have given their interpretation to the DC Chief Medical Examiner’s report which opens the door to the January 6 events being a contributing factor to Sicknick’s death. In such a circumstance, one could say that both views are either correct or incorrect but in our view no definitive conclusion can be factually made.
We agree with the majority of the Panel that commentators and hosts are entitled to give their interpretation of the facts of an issue. This is especially true when there are conflicting interpretations of the facts. Although there was only one officer’s death at issue (not “officers”, as stated by Mr. Mulcair) the fact is that it remains unclear and certainly unverifiable as to whether the events of January 6 contributed to Officer Sicknick’s death on January 7.
Accordingly, we are of the view that the comment regarding the death of officers on January 6, 2021 at the DC Capitol Building did not constitute an inaccuracy contrary to Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
Panel finding on correction of error
The Panel is unanimous in its finding that CFRA breached Article 1.3 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics for failing to correct the error as it relates to the cause of Officer Sicknick’s death. This is the case notwithstanding the fact that it was a majority of the Panel that found a breach as it relates to the accuracy of Mr. Mulcair’s statement regarding the death of officers on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.
As explained earlier, the death of Officer Sicknick was the subject of widespread news media coverage and has been hotly debated over the past two years. Both the host and commentator should have been aware of the controversy surrounding Sicknick’s death. When a commentator provides colour to a story which is the subject of widespread controversy, the broadcaster must ensure that its host provide the counterpoint by outlining that certain facts are open to interpretation and debate as was the case with Officer Sicknick’s death. Such clarifications are required under the applicable code provision and are, in fact, what distinguishes professional journalists which have a higher burden in this regard from individuals who post unchecked to social media platforms.
The host stated that she was going to fact check what was happening with Donald Trump. This should have included fact checking what her commentator had said in relation to police officers at the Capitol on January 6. The Panel understands that commentators may be imprecise when it comes to the details of an issue. And while it may be commonplace to misinterpret who died on January 6 on Capitol Hill, it was incumbent on the broadcaster to ensure that its host fact check and contextualize any controversy in this regard. That is what distinguishes professional media outlets from casual social media commentators. It is also what ensures the trust and confidence of audiences to broadcast platforms. This is why the issuance of corrections becomes all the more important, especially as it relates to controversial issues such as the January 6 insurrection. Failure to correct leads to misinformation which can then be widely disseminated. The Panel believes that the soundness of news and news commentary relies on this very essential principle.
As a result, the Panel considers that the controversy on whether officers died or not as a result of the January 6 insurrection should have been raised as soon as reasonably possible. The Panel understands that when the broadcast is in progress, corrections may be difficult to make immediately. However, the CBSC has stated in its precedents that it does not necessarily have to be in the same program, but best efforts should be made as quickly as possible.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, CFRA provided a reply to the complainant, outlining its position regarding the comments made during the broadcast. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required on this occasion.
CFRA is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during peak listening hours within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which The Vassy Kapelos Show was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CFRA.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CFRA breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Code of Journalistic Ethics in a broadcast of The Vassy Kapelos Show on April 3, 2023. The broadcast included an imprecise statement contrary to Clause 6 of the CAB Code. The statement should have been clarified as required by Article 1.3 of the RTDNA Code.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
1 CILQ-FM re John Derringer’s “Tool of the Day” (CBSC Decision 02/03-1465, February 10, 2004)
2 “Death of Brian Sicknick”, Wikipedia.org, accessed August 9, 2023
3 Jen Christensen, “Sicknick death ruled ‘natural’ but experts say stress can set off strokes,” CNN Health, April 20, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/20/health/sicknick-death-natural-strokes/index.html, accessed August 15, 2023.
The Vassy Kapelos Show is a talk show on which the host and guests discuss current events. It is broadcast at 1:30 pm weekdays on CFRA (Ottawa). On April 3, 2023 the topic of Donald Trump arose a few times.
The first segment about Donald Trump was 20 minutes into the program.
[audio clip of Donald Trump saying people are telling courts not to indict him because he did not do anything wrong; audio clip of Cyrus Vance Jr. explaining why the review of Trump’s tax records is occurring and politics was not motivating their actions]
Kapelos: You heard there first from former president Donald Trump followed by former Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Junior. The former claiming political motivation in his indictment. And the latter saying no, that was not the case. We are standing by as the former president makes his way from Florida to New York while he will, where he will – pardon me – turn himself in after being indicted by a grand jury. Late last week, in connection to a payment made to former porn star Stormy Daniels and, uh, some of the scrutiny over how that payment was made and its possible implications in campaign finance law. To help us understand more of the significance of what’s going on and what could happen, we’re joined now by Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush and a professor of law at the University of Minnesota. Professor Painter, good to have you with us.
Painter: Well, thank you for having me.
Kapelos: I appreciate you making the time. If I could start off with some logistics before, uh, getting your analysis on, on the actual, um, indictment. The president is said to be making his way from Florida to New York to turn himself in. Can you help us understand as Canadians kind of the, the process that’s underway now, now that he has been indicted?
Painter: The process is called an arraignment. Uh, where the defendant appears before the judge to plead guilty or not guilty. Um, former President Trump will almost certainly plead not guilty. And then a trial is arranged. Uh, and the, uh, defendant is released on, uh, bail. In this circumstance, I expect he will be released on his own recognizance without a cash bail of any sort. From then he would, uh, go down to Florida. Presumably they will allow him to leave the jurisdiction to go back to Florida. And then a trial would take place sometime probably within the next six months to a year, uh, depending on the scheduling and whether Donald Trump wants to drag this out. Which he may want to do, to drag it out into the Republican primaries, uh, rather than go to trial right away.
Kapelos: The charges, the specific charges, we know that, that he’s been indicted, but my understanding is the charges will, will be revealed, you know, still to come. Um, I know that you don’t have a crystal ball, but what, what kinds of crimes are we talking about here?
Painter: This crime that is the most serious, um, I believe, is falsification of business records. And what’s going on there is that it’s legal to have sex with a porn star. It’s probably legal to pay her a hundred and thirty thousand dollars to keep her mouth shut. But if you’re running for president, uh, you do have to disclose that as a campaign expenditure on your federal election commission disclosures, which are then publicly disclosed. He didn’t do that. His lawyer, Michael Cohen, was investigated and ended up going to prison in connection with that, but the Justice Department would not indict him, the president, sitting president, individual number one. So now what has happened is the state of New York’s [law?] says it is a felony in New York to falsify a business record in a New York business, uh, to cover up another crime. Whether that crime is under New York law or federal law or it could be a crime in Canada. Uh, we do not, uh, tolerate in New York or in other states someone falsifying a business record in order to cover up a crime in another jurisdiction or in New York. Uh, New York businesses are laundermats and not places where you take money to be laundered or conceal crimes. Um, and New York has every right to defend its integrity as the business centre, uh, by clamping down on that kind of thing and that’s what this charge is all about. It’s falsification of business records in order to conceal a crime.
Kapelos: And is that, um, very difficult to prove? Like, is the likelihood of convi- , what, what, in your assessment – I mean, we don’t know the details, but in general – is the likelihood of conviction in cases like this?
Painter: Well, it appears that the, um, the business records were falsified. I believe there’s going to be overwhelming evidence of that.
Painter: It’s not conclusive. The question is who falsified them, who ordered them to be falsified. And in the situation where Donald Trump is head of the Trump organization, his word goes. He makes the decisions, but still, uh, he may say that he had nothing to do with it. And somebody else did it. It’s not his fault. Uh, we’ll see. The prosecutor will need to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt in order [??]. Uh, in this, uh, case now, I emphasize before there are other much more serious possible charges that could be brought against Donald Trump, including by the Department of Justice for insurrection and sedition. And that’s really what we ought to be keeping our eye on going forward.
Kapelos: Well, I wanted to ask you, because I think for many of us on this side of the border, the, those much more serious, um, you know, investigations have the focus for us. That’s what, that’s what we have, the bouncing ball we have been following. Did it, did it surprise you at all that of all the things he could potentially be indicted on, this is the, the one that happened first and the one that is, that did happen?
Painter: Well, the New York, uh, prosecutor in Manhattan, the DA has been after Trump’s financial records for quite some time. I submitted an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Manhattan’s District Attorney, um, asking the court to allow the subpoena of financial records to be enforced. The subpoena, the Supreme Court agreed with us on that. And, uh, so this, this case is well ahead of perhaps some of the other investigations. And so the Manhattan DA got there first. That being said, the Department of Justice had over two years since January 6th and, uh, to investigate what’s going on in the US House of Representatives was thoroughly investigated in the January 6th committee. And the independent prosecutor, Jack Smith, hopefully is going to make some decisions here, some charging decisions, uh, about, uh, Donald Trump’s role in that. Because that is the [?] most serious offence and is the only offence that would bar him from public office under the Fourteenth Amendment, section three of our Constitution law, which provides that if you have sworn an oath of loyalty to the United States and then give aid and comfort to an insurrection, uh, you are disqualified from public office. And a lot of people today here believe that Donald Trump went well beyond giving aid and comfort to the insurrection. He and his, uh, his team there were very, very much involved in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. And de facto, you know, overturn the United States government.
Kapelos: You pointed to the timeline, uh, since they’ve been investigating. And the amount of, kind of, evidence that’s even on the public record. Do you feel, is it your sense that there is some hesitancy on the part of the Department of Justice to, to move this forward just because of the seriousness of the consequences you just outlined?
Painter: I’m not sure what’s going on at the Department of Justice. Uh, the, uh, Attorney General should have appointed a special prosecutor in January 2021 and that’s what I urged at the time. And they didn’t appoint a special prosecutor until November of 2022 when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency. Uh, hopefully the investigation has been going on since 2021, um, on this. It’s a very, very serious charge. It’s sedition and insurrection. Uh, someone who has participated and sympathized with sedition and insurrection is a very dangerous person to elect to the presidency or any other position. And hopefully, uh, the Department of Justice is going to weigh in on this very soon, so we can really focus on the most serious charges against Donald Trump rather than just the financial records and a payoff to a porn star.
Kapelos: I just have about thirty seconds, Professor Painter, but I wanted to get your sense also of the kind of, you know, the calls that the former president put out for his supporters to, to come protest what’s happening to him. Do you anticipate there’s something to worry about there?
Painter: Well, I am concerned about that. I’m concerned about the threats against Prosecutor Bragg, uh, that have been made. The photo of the former president holding a baseball bat next to the head of the prosecutor. And this, this trial cannot be allowed to become a political circus where the extreme elements, the most extreme elements, are galvanized, uh, to support the defence. Uh, we’ve had that happen in other countries where insurrection trials are turned into a, uh, into a political circus that try and put a dictator in power. We can’t let that happen here. Uh, we need to enforce the law and this is a country where, uh, crimes are prosecuted regardless of who you are. And people aren’t going to be able to take to the streets and change that.
Kapelos: Okay. Professor Painter, thank you so much. Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. We’re back with the Minister of Environment, Steven Guilbeault after a short break. Stay right there.
After a segment about federal government environmental initiatives, the “Daily Debrief Panel” segment occurred 40 minutes into the program:
Daily Debrief Panel
Kapelos: Here with me this afternoon Zain Velji, a political campaign strategist and partner at Northweather. He’s worked with former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta’s NDP leader Rachel Notley. Tim Powers, chairman of Summa Strategies and managing director of Abacus Data. And Tom Mulcair, CTV’s political analyst and former NDP leader. Hi, everyone. Nice to have us all back together.
The first topic of discussion was government climate change initiatives. The panel then switched to a discussion about Trump’s indictment.
[recorded audio clip of Donald Trump:
Trump: I will say this. With death and destruction. I didn’t say death and destruction. I said I’m afraid.
man: The possibility. Yeah.
Trump: I said I’m afraid that if they do this, which is a fake prosecution where my worst enemies say that he’s totally innocent, I mean, I can’t believe. People that have never been positive to me or defended me, that don’t like me, they’re on the other side of the world. Uh, these are people that said you can’t do this prosecution. It will cause tremendous problems.]
Kapelos: That is former president Donald Trump speaking to Fox News over the weekend, uh, in response, of course, to the fact that he was indicted by a grand jury in Manhattan. His plane has actually just taken off from Florida, landing in New York this afternoon where the former president will turn himself in. He has been indicted over hush money paid to a former, uh, porn star, Stormy Daniels. Uh, we won’t know, we don’t know, rather, at this point, what the exact charges he will face are, but they could involve breaking campaign finance laws at a minimum. Let’s bring back the Daily Debrief Panel to talk about the significance of all of this. Zain Velji, Tom Mulcair and Tim Powers. Tom, I’ll start with you. Can’t believe we’re talking about Donald Trump again, but, wow, this is a pretty big deal. I mean, a former president indicted, about to be kind of, about to be arrested basically.
Mulcair: Yeah, and like a lot of people I would dare say, Vassy, I would have loved to have seen him, you know, wear the, that magic pair of stainless steel bracelets for something serious, like interfering in the Georgia election or the January 6th riots. “Insurrection” I guess is a better word. But it’s going to start with this. I’m saying it that way on purpose because I think that there is a precedent being set. So a lot of people are indeed criticizing. You know, this sounds like pretty small potatoes compared to everything that this guy has done. Fair enough. But once the precedent is set to have a former president hit with an indictment, then the others might roll out that much more easily. And I think that that’s where we’re heading. I think he’s going to be indicted on much more serious stuff in the coming weeks and months. And this is just the beginning and I’m, I’m almost rueful of what will happen because he does still have a big fan club out there and if it does interfere in his ability to become a candidate, of course, it just feeds the conspiracy narrative.
Kapelos: Yeah, he does certainly still have a following, Zain. It’ll be interesting to see. And, I mean, I say, I say the word “interesting” not crassly. But, like, you know, the calls for everybody come and protest. And I see that New York is, they’ve already held a briefing, for example, with the mayor today. They’re, they’re very much preparing for what could happen. But so far, what he’s been calling for hasn’t manifested. Certainly nowhere near the degree that it did, not even close to January 6th.
Velji: Which is, which is great. From a civility, democracy perspective, it is awesome. But when you look at any campaign, even the Trump campaign, and I know we shouldn’t, you know, provide normative, sort of, political principles to his campaigning style or his political style, but I will for a second. When you look at protesting and showing up on the streets as the highest rung of the ladder, let’s also consider what are some of the lower rungs of that ladder that he has been succeeding on. We know that since this announcement late last week, the volunteers are up. Fundraising is up. People willing to join the MAGA movement is up. The Republican Party, in terms of even candidates who are rumoured to run against him are all falling in line. And now he’s making this an entire media moment. He was out on Fox News. His lawyer was out on all of the mainstream cable shows over the weekend. And now they’re, we’re tracking his plane as it arrives to Manhattan. Leave it to Donald Trump to try to turn something that is an outright historic negative, with Tom’s point being absolutely well-taken, that there’s probably more of it, into a media moment and a positive for his political ambitions. And I think, while we may not see protest and we may not, and let us hope we don’t, uh, disorder on the streets, all of those other metrics underneath it that fuel a political machine, man oh man, are they starting to deliver from what we’re hearing over the course of the weekend.
Kapelos: Do you think the calculation, Tim, changes if what Tom laid out does unfold? For example, like, if there are more serious charges? If the, you know, he’s, um, uh, legally implicated with the incitement? If, uh, the Georgia stuff? Like, all, all of, like, if, if the Department of Justice, for example, pursues charges against him, that if convicted would prevent him from being able to run again, do you think, like, it sways the voter base a little bit? Or are they in there for the long haul?
Powers: You would hope it would, Vassy, but remember this is the guy, before the 2016 federal, uh, general national election in the United States said he could go shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. He was never held to account for that. And sadly, I mean, metaphorically this is, he’s effectively doing something similar right now. I don’t think the Trump base is going to abandon him. Um, there’ve been so many reasons to do it. What’s really disheartening, two things are extremely disheartening about this. One: um, you’re building a culture of political, uh, followers and potential political leaders in the future who are going to emulate, already are emulating this behaviour. Accountability and responsibility being thrown out the door. And what kind of lessons, three of us on this program have, have young kids. Tom’s children are, are older. I mean, how do you explain this to our kids and our children and the like? I mean, it’s corrosive at the highest level. Yes, it has staying power. And it continues to befuddle me.
Kapelos: Well, even the, the support that he has, Tom, among the Republican base and certainly as the, the field grows larger. You don’t just have the DeSantis, but you have Nikki Haley and somebody else over the weekend I saw declare, um, you know, that they want to run in the primaries as well. Like his, you know, the, the possibility of him becoming the candidate is certainly not nothing.
Mulcair: He completely dominates a news cycle. And he’s been doing it for years. To, to Tim’s point, that’s what this guy is a genius at. And so, I think that, as we watch this roll out, I mean, forget about everything else tomorrow, Tuesday. And, you know, anything that you’re going to be doing on radio, anything that I’m going to be doing on French TV or something like that, we’re going to open up with Trump. It’s just going to be the thing that everybody talks about. So it’s not even the local conception in the United States. It’s nationally, it’s internationally. It’s an amazing phenomenon. He is quite [?] to people. But at the end of the day, there are some serious charges being laid against him, that are being prepared, I believe. And I look at the porn star nonsense and it’s, this is the type of stuff that reflects on Trump the person. We, we know that he’s that guy, you know, that will stand in front of a church with the Bible after that. I mean, you know, this is, this is the actor that we’ve grown used to. But there’s some serious stuff that happened. There were police officers killed on January 6th. There were attempts to ta-, he talked directly to the most highest people in the administration of the state of Georgia and tried to get them to find votes so that he could overturn the result of the election. That’s the serious stuff. Will his fan base just say it doesn’t matter? Yes. They’re going to just say it’s part of the swamp. These are the people that Trump is going to be re-elected to take care of and, you know, seek revenge. This is the crazy part of this cycle that we’re in right now. And I don’t think that they’re going to change it anytime soon. And it’s certainly not what’s going to happen tomorrow that will change anything.
Kapelos: Yeah, it’s, it’s so interesting to me also, Zain, that, um, you know, and we were speaking with Richard Painter earlier about, like, this is the first thing, the first, kind of, shoe to drop. And this one is so much more, like Tom said, it’s about him as a person. It seems like there’s more room for back and forth on it, whether right or not, than, for example, some of the other stuff Tom laid out. Which are really, really serious charges. Especially if they are brought by the Department of Justice.
Velji: Well absolutely. And the question then becomes will they all, whenever they land, be treated as a, a basket of, of indictments together? Or will this one going first be an outright negative? Uh, in the sense that, if you’re a Republican strategist and you can see their strategy right now, go out and, and attack this thing. Say it’s personal, say it’s vindictive, say they, the, the powers of justice are being manipulated and politicized by the Democrats. So the question is are they actually, the Democrats in this situation, potentially softening the ground to actually have the impact of the more serious charges and indictments, uh, not necessarily land with people because Republicans have been so assertive and unified, unified this past weekend and start defining, uh, the, the, um, political, sort of, politicization of these charges.
Kapelos: I’ve got less than a minute, but I want to do a quick round. Let’s end on some positive news. A Canadian’s going to the moon. Jeremy Hanson. Tim, your reaction?
Powers: He can take Trump with him and leave him in the outer solar system. [Kapelos laughs] Does the Trump plane work that –, I mean it’s so cool, right?
The Debrief Panel concluded with a brief discussion about Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen being selected to be part of a moon mission. The program concluded with the “Fact Check” segment, which again touched on Donald Trump.
About an hour and nine minutes into the program, there was the “Fact Check” segment:
Kapelos: Ten minutes before the top of the hour. It is the beginning of April. April 3rd to be exact. Let’s do a fact check on what you’ve heard today.
[comments about astronaut Jeremy Hansen going to the moon]
Kapelos: I also want to do a fact check on what’s happening with Donald Trump. Because while we have been on the air, uh, the former president’s plane and, and trust me, if you had your eye on the TV, you would see to great fanfare, first of all, his entire motorcade, there’s a helicopter, visual of it, made its way to the airport. Then they got on the big plane that said “Trump” right on the side. They took off and they’re slated to land in New York City any moment where the president is going to turn himself in. Now, there are a few facts to understand. First of all, a grand jury in Manhattan last Thursday, uh, after meeting since January, voted to indict the former president in relation to, uh, the, the crime, the alleged crime that they were investigating that he paid hush money or that through his lawyer he paid hush money to a former porn star to say, to stay quiet. That porn star’s name, former porn star’s name is Stormy Daniels. Uh and the, the criminal activity here or the alleged criminal activity is the way in which that was paid. And that the documents that showed it was paid were allegedly falsified. So that’s what’s being investigated. Uh, we heard from Richard Painter who’s the former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, also a professor of law. He flagged what I think a lot of people politically are talking about, which is that there are many other very significant investigations underway into former president Trump’s behaviour, specifically with relation to January 6th and the insurrection that happened at Capitol Hill and his, the allegation that he helped incite that. But also, a conversation he had, uh, with a Georgia official about the election outcome in that state. And so, uh, Richard Painter points out, uh, that, you know, those, those investigations are taking a while, particularly the Department of Justice into what happened in January 6th. Have a listen.
audio clip of Painter from earlier in the show: I’m not sure what’s going on at the Department of Justice. Uh, the, uh, Attorney General should have appointed a special prosecutor in January 2021 and that’s what I urged at the time. And they didn’t appoint a special prosecutor until November of 2022 when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency. Hopefully, uh, the Department of Justice is going to weigh in on this very soon.
Kapelos: That’s Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, uh, weighing in on how long things are taking really with the Department of Justice and the other investigations into Donald Trump. The former president, I should say, is, um, denying all the allegations being levelled his way. Also over the weekend, in an interview on Fox News, um, basically saying that, that these charges that he is being indicted over or the alleged crime that he’s being indicted over is politically motivated. Uh, people who are associated with the Attorney General’s office in Manhattan deny that. They are refuting that. They say that that’s not the case, that they’ve investigated him thoroughly. They’ve presented evidence to the, uh, grand jury and that the grand jury made its decision by voting on Thursday. I will also point out – and this is something to watch over the next twenty-four hours and maybe even longer – Michael Cohen, who was Donald Trump’s lawyer, who was his kind of right-hand man for years and years and years, turned on Donald Trump and became the star witness in everything the grand jury heard. He is the one that told them that he made the hush money payment, the way in which it was covered up or that documents were allegedly falsified. And he has also pointed out, uh, that it’s no surprise that his character will likely be attacked by Trump’s lawyers because he was, like I said, Trump’s right-hand man, uh, and certainly did a lot of nefarious activities on his behalf. Or at least allegedly so. And so, that’ll be something to watch, certainly.
The CBSC received the following complaint via its webform on April 5, 2023:
Name of Television or Radio Station: CFRA 580 radio
Program Name: The Vassy Kapelos Show
Date of Program: 03/04/2023
Time of Program: 1:30PM
On Monday April 3, 2023 I was listening to the Vassy Kapelos show on CFRA. Just after 13:30 Ms. Kapelos had guests on who were disparaging Donald Trump as is usual in Canadian media. One of her guests, Thomas Mulcair, made the statement that police officers died on January 6 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Ms. Kapelos, one of the most well researched journalists in Canada, allowed that falsehood to go unchallenged. This was a patently false statement that she allowed to be broadcast on her show by one of her guests. It has been reported for over two years now that no police officer died at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. However, some people did die on January 6 at the Capitol but they were all unarmed President Trump supporters. The four people who did die at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 were Ashli Babbitt, Rosanne Boyland, Kevin Greeson and Benjamin Phillips. Ms. Babbitt, a military veteran who was unarmed, was shot through the neck by Capitol police officer Michael Byrd. Rosanne Boyland, who was unarmed, was beaten to death by Capitol police officers. The other two gentlemen apparently died of natural causes. Not one police officer died at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Both Thomas Mulcair and Vassy Kapelos should be ashamed that they are spreading false information to listeners of her radio show on April 3, 2023, more than two years after the event. At ten minutes to the hour Ms. Kapelos announced that she was going to do a “fact check” on what her listeners had heard that day during her show. Not having listened to her show before I thought that she was now going to correct the false information that she had allowed to go unchallenged by her earlier in the program. But no ... she did not correct that false information. She let that falsehood stand. This is a clear breach of Clause 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics. And although this was not a news report but was a commentary of past events, the commentary was inaccurate, not factual, not a fair discussion, was certainly not a reliable source of information and thus not in the best interests of the public. This show is an example of why the majority of Canadians do not have trust in our media anymore. There is no excuse for such verifiably false information to be broadcast to the public as fact on our airways [sic] two years after the event. If the hatred for one man is such that journalistic ethics can be and are allowed to be breached by those who are appointed to regulate such behaviour then President Trump should be the least of anyone’s concerns. Vassy Kapelos and CFRA should be made to publicly correct their dishonest broadcast of April 3, 2023.
The broadcaster responded to the complainant on May 9:
We are in receipt of your complaint from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) concerning comments made by a guest during a segment on the Vassy Kapelos Show which was broadcast on Newstalk 580 CFRA on April 3, 2023.
Before we address your specific concern, it should be noted that Newstalk 580 CFRA is a member in good standing of the CBSC and adheres to the Codes and guidelines administered by the CBSC.
By way of background, we would like to point out that the Vassy Kapelos Show is a talk show. The host discusses a wide variety of current events and engages in conversations with guests. The topics are often serious and well researched by the producer and host.
The particular segment you referred to involved an interview with Thomas Mulcair – who is a contributor and commentator for CTV News. As you may be aware, Mr. Mulcair is a retired Canadian politician who served as the leader of the New Democratic Party. During that interview you state:
“Thomas Mulcair made the statement that police officers died on January 6 at the Capitol in Washington, D. C. Ms. Kapelos, one of the most well researched journalists in Canada, allowed that falsehood to go unchallenged. This was a patently false statement that she allowed to be broadcast on her show by one of her guests. It has been reported for over two years now that no police officer died at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
Speculation over Officer Brian Sicknick’s death was the source of widespread misinformation. U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger accused Fox News host Tucker Carlson of spreading “offensive and misleading conclusions” about the Jan. 6 insurrection. In a letter to the Capitol Police force that was obtained by NBC News, Manger conveyed his outrage over the way Carlson portrayed video aired on his prime-time program in March, 2023. The security video was exclusively provided to Carlson by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He continued: “Finally, the most disturbing accusation from last night was that our late friend and colleague Brian Sicknick’s death had nothing to do with his heroic actions on January 6. The Department maintains, as anyone with common sense would, that had Officer Sicknick not fought valiantly for hours on the day he was violently assaulted, Officer Sicknick would not have died the next day.”
In the days after the riot, police and a Justice Department official attributed Sicknick’s death to his efforts to contain the riot. An autopsy later revealed Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters at the Jan. 6 insurrection. The ruling does not mean Sicknick was not assaulted or that the violent events at the Capitol did not contribute to his death. The medical examiner noted Sicknick was among the officers who engaged the mob and told the Washington Post “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”
While we believe the reports were not in breach of the Codes and guidelines administered by the CBSC, we also understand that every individual may view material from a different perspective.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.
The complainant filed her Ruling Request on May 14:
I have received a response from [the Director of News & Information Programming] of CFRA regarding my complaint with respect to The Vassy Kapelos Show broadcast on April 3, 2023. I am not satisfied with this response and would like to request a review of my complaint by the CBSC. The one statement of [the Director of News & Information Programming]’s that I would agree with is his statement that “Speculation over Officer Brian Sicknick’s death was the source of widespread misinformation.” The media in both the US and Canada were the source of that misinformation as they asserted for days and weeks after January 6 that Officer Sicknick was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by Trump supporters at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. In fact, the Washington D.C. Chief Medical Examiner stated that Officer Sicknick died of natural causes from a stroke on January 7, 2021 while also confirming that there was no evidence of either internal or external injuries. These are just the facts. All other commentary by [the Director of News & Information Programming] in his response to me is just someone’s opinion. These facts have been common knowledge of informed individuals for over two years and still, unfortunately, the media and political operatives seem content to continue with the falsehoods with respect to events of January 6, 2021.
[The Director of News & Information Programming] confirms in his response to me that Officer Sicknick died on January 7 of natural causes and not on January 6 at the Capitol. Mr. Mulcair made blatantly false statements during The Vassy Kapelos Show that police officers died at the Capital on January 6 and, in fact, he used the plural of “officer” implying that more than one officer had died. This statement is patently false and as recently as May 11, 2023 even panelists on CNN debating the May 10 Trump appearance on that cable station stated that four people died at the Capitol on January 6 and all four were Trump supporters. Thomas Mulcair’s statement and the absence of a correction by Ms. Kapelos would certainly lead uninformed audience members to have a false impression of the events of January 6, 2021. This is surely an example of broadcasting that is not in the public interest.
[The Director of News & Information Programming] also took the opportunity to inform me that The Vassy Kapelos Show is a talk show. Under Clause six of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics the principle of full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion and comment applies to talk show formats where news, opinion and comment may be expressed by broadcaster employees or their invited guests. Mr Mulcair’s unchallenged statement was clearly not a fair and proper presentation of past events of January 6, 2021. As [the Director of News & Information Programming] also pointed out, Mr. Mulcair is a CTV News commentator and contributor and, therefore, one would think that someone in that capacity should be well informed and should refrain from spreading false and misleading information of public events to the audience. Broadcasting false information with respect to important events does not serve the public interest and as [the Director of News & Information Programming] has agreed that Mr. Mulcair’s statement of police officers dying on January 6 is not a correct statement, it appears that the absence of a correction to this broadcast by either Ms. Kapelos or anyone else at CFRA has violated clause 1.3 of the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s Code of Journalistic Ethics as in previous decisions (CJOH-DT (CTV Ottawa) re a Report on CTV National News (Woodward’s Trump Tapes) CBSC Decision 20.2021-0062 January 27, 2021). This unfortunate broadcast incident is yet another example as to why a majority of Canadians mistrust the media in this country.