On the night of January 24th, a CTV News report containing allegations of sexual misconduct led to the resignation of Patrick Brown as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and Official Opposition at Queen’s Park.
But following the brief, awkward statement he delivered to reporters that evening, Brown remained largely silent about the allegations that upended the province’s political landscape — until last week, that is, when he launched a campaign to challenge both the substance and form of CTV’s reporting. Since then, he has been anything but quiet, working every available channel to cast doubt on the allegations and lay the groundwork for a last-minute entry into the leadership race to succeed himself.
Here, CANADALAND attempts to unravel and explain the questions raised about — and changes made to — CTV’s original story; what CTV is standing by; and Brown’s efforts to hit back through information provided to other outlets by confidential sources who attempt to refute the stories of the two alleged victims.
CANADALAND has also learned new details about the alleged victims’ relationships with two CTV reporters; that there was a third accuser CTV did not use in its report; more about Brown’s rushed emergency press conference; and other discrepancies with the recent stories that have challenged CTV’s reporting.
CTV’s story of January 24 included two confidential sources who shared detailed accounts of what they described as sexual misconduct against them by Brown.
The first alleged victim said that Brown, who doesn’t drink, had plied her with alcohol and that they then went back to his house. In the original story, she said she was under the legal drinking age and still in high school at the time of the incident. According to her statements to CTV, back in 2007, Brown closed the door to his bedroom and dropped his pants and asked her to perform oral sex on him.
The second alleged victim, an employee of Brown’s at the time, told CTV that she was very drunk on the night in 2013 when she, Brown, and his friend went to Brown’s bedroom to look at pictures of his trip to Asia during an after-party for a charity event. She alleged the friend then left and that shortly thereafter Brown forced himself onto her.
“The next thing I know, he’s kissing me. Sitting beside me, kissing me and then I was, I kind of just froze up. He continued to kiss me and he laid me down on the bed and got on top of me. I remember consciously trying not to move my mouth and I was just not moving, so I was laying there immobile and he kept kissing me,” the second alleged victim told CTV.
“I felt it was sexual. I could feel his erection on my legs when he was on top of me so I felt that it would have gone to sexual intercourse if I had not done anything,” she said. “I would characterize that as a sexual assault.”
Brown made a brief statement denying both accusers’ allegations in a hastily called press conference that began 15 minutes before CTV would go to air with the story on its 10:00 p.m. newscast. Brown then abruptly left without taking any questions from reporters.
After contacting Brown’s offices and reaching out to him through email and Twitter, CANADALAND received text messages from lawyer Joseph Villeneuve, a friend of Brown’s, who said he was transcribing answers spoken aloud by the former leader on a Skype call. (Villeneuve is currently in Europe.) Villeneuve’s law firm represented the Ontario PC Party up until recently, when the firm either quit or was fired.
Brown says, via Villeneuve, that CTV first contacted his office for comment at around 4:30 p.m. on the day of the report, but that he first learned of the allegations an hour later. Brown says his lawyer then “sent notice to CTV before they aired demanding they not.”
“It is important to note that Mr. Brown did not respond to our request for comment, nor did he request a deadline extension for his response,” CTV communications director Matthew Garrow says in an email. “However, he did call a pre-emptive news conference prior to our story airing. We understand Mr. Brown’s advisors knew for a number of days we had been working on a story prior to us reaching out to Mr. Brown for comment.”
“I see this as a complete hack job. I see this as the beginning of a dangerous boiled-frog scenario if we’re going to allow this to fester. All we’re going to have is people discredited by anonymous allegations,” says Villeneuve in a phone call. “Before the #MeToo movement, you were not even allowed to print these types of stories on an anonymous basis.”
(Villeneuve appears to be conflating anonymous sources — where a reporter receives a tip without knowing where it comes from, such as through an archetypal manila envelope slipped under a door — with confidential sources, whose identities are known to reporters and editors but not disclosed to readers. The latter are common in journalism, especially with regard to alleged victims and whistleblowers who are frightened to speak out about powerful figures.)
Villeneuve also says that Brown’s girlfriend at the time — present at his residence for the after-party where the alleged sexual assault is said to have occurred — had agreed to go in front of the cameras at Queen’s Park to refute some of the allegations.
“Patrick was originally going to have Mikaela [Patterson] attend at the press conference with him. And of course the rats in his sinking ship, none of them wanted that to happen. But CTV should have known there was reason to pause. And for whatever reason, their agenda did not require a pause.”
Brown’s staff abandoned him during, and shortly after, his press conference by tweeting out their resignations.
CTV says they were not aware of Patterson’s professed presence in Brown’s home on the night of the alleged assault before airing the initial report. The following day, Patterson reached out to CTV.
“This person agreed to an on-camera interview, but later refused to be interviewed. She did not respond to subsequent repeated requests to be interviewed,” says Garrow in another email.
Within a few hours of CTV’s report, a statement was put out saying that Brown had decided to step down as PC party leader. Three days later, the Sun reported that Brown had faced a mutiny from his aides and party, forcing him to resign.
After CTV’s initial report aired, the network did a follow-up the next night that the network’s Twitter account teased in a Tweet: “EXCLUSIVE TONIGHT: Two more women in Patrick Brown’s home riding of Barrie go on the record about his alleged behaviour.”
EXCLUSIVE TONIGHT: Two more women in Patrick Brown’s home riding of Barrie go on the record about his alleged behaviour. Plus reaction from his two accusers on his resignation as Ontario PC Leader. Watch @glen_mcgregor’s report tonight. #cdnpoli #onpoli
— CTV National News (@CTVNationalNews) January 26, 2018
The new sources’ allegations amounted to one claiming that Brown would repeatedly ask her and her friends to join his table at a club and another saying she heard “countless” young women “nonchalantly” saying they went to Brown’s house. The misleading tweet appears to have led some journalists and the public to believe there were two more accusers that had come forward.
In journalist Stephen Maher’s January 28 Maclean’s piece about Rick Dykstra (which forced the then-Ontario PC Party president and Brown friend to step down over sexual assault allegations that the federal Conservative Party was aware of in 2015), he wrote that Brown “stepped down last week after several women told CTV news that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with them.” (Maher, a former reporting partner of McGregor’s at The Ottawa Citizen, said he didn’t want to comment on CTV’s story when asked about his use of the word “several.”)
Garrow, however, tells CANADALAND that CTV had at least three sources accusing Brown of sexual misconduct.
“CTV News was careful and took necessary steps to ensure there was no political motivation on behalf of the two female complainants,” he says. “Further there was no political connection to how CTV News received this story. In fact, we can confirm there was at least one other woman who came forward who made allegations of a sexual nature against Patrick Brown. We did not pursue her story due to her public support of the Provincial Liberal Party.”
Over the course of nearly three weeks, Brown would mostly remain silent, returning to his hometown of Barrie to recover from the shock of such a sudden change in fortune.
(Brown’s PCs, with a provincial election just a few months away, had been leading comfortably in the polls, suggesting he had a very good chance of becoming the next premier of Ontario.)
During the three weeks Brown remained out of the public eye, he — along with lawyers, private detectives, friends, and at least one communications expert — planned a course of action in order to dismantle the allegations against him, clear his name, and save his career. On February 6, Brown tweeted out a statement saying the #MeToo movement was important but that the allegations against him are “false” and that “The truth will come out.”
I am immensely grateful for all the support expressed to my family and myself. #metoo can be a tool to lift society and I applaud that effort.
False allegations however undermine that good work.
The truth will come out.
Thank you to all.
— Patrick Brown (@brownbarrie) February 6, 2018
Then last Saturday, the Toronto Sun and National Post published a report — “’Absolute lies’: Patrick Brown refutes sex misconduct allegations” — that included interviews with Brown and his friends challenging the stories told by the two accusers. In the report, a friend of Brown’s, granted anonymity in the story, said that the CTV report’s second accuser had made “false allegations” that the three of them went into Brown’s room together shortly before the alleged sexual assault took place. Brown’s anonymous friend also told the Sun that he had shared his version of events with CTV but that his comment wasn’t included in the network’s report.
Brown declined to provide CANADALAND with the contact info of the unnamed friend from the Sun report because, Brown says, “he is on a national board.” But on Sunday, in the first of three lengthy Facebook posts, he would seize on his friend’s testimony and other parts of his accusers’ stories to try and discredit them. Brown also said the first accuser had gotten the layout of his then-apartment wrong. However, the CTV story did not include the first accuser mentioning Brown having had a second-floor bedroom; that was a detail given by the second accuser.
“The second accuser’s story is also absurdly false,” he wrote in the first post. “It was she who tried to kiss me, while the woman I was seeing was in another room. I stopped her immediately and offered to drive her home, which I did. There are at least three witnesses, one of whom even spoke to CTV, that refute the details of her allegations. CTV left that out of the story.”
Garrow says no such information was provided to CTV News when reporters tried to track down Brown’s friend who allegedly entered the bedroom with Brown and the second alleged victim. Furthermore, Brown himself admitted that some version of a kissing moment between him and the alleged victim did take place.
Brown also pointed out in his first Facebook volley on Sunday that the second alleged victim continued to work for him after the alleged sexual assault and remained friendly and an open supporter up until a year ago.
In his post, Brown also blasted CTV for not disclosing a personal connection between the accusers and its reporters.
Rumours about a personal relationship between CTV News’ Rachel Aiello — who shared a byline with Glen McGregor on the original story — and Brown’s second alleged victim began after Ottawa’s Frank Magazine published a report on January 27 that claimed the two were dating. That initial article was pulled shortly after publication and was replaced by a piece stating instead that the two were former co-workers and friends. (Coincidentally, McGregor worked for Frank in the 90s.)
“I think that journalists all the time are using social connections, and in political journalism, often source relationships blend into social relationships that sometimes blend into personal friendships,” says Carleton journalism professor Paul Adams, who used to work as a political correspondent for The Globe and Mail. “And I think reporters all the time use every avenue they can to get the story.”
“In this case, we have a relatively junior reporter who was the source of the connection to at least one of the women, as far as we can tell,” says Adams. “And she was paired with [McGregor,] one of the most senior investigative and political reporters in the country, with just tonnes of experience, and presumably exercising his own editorial judgment in the process of developing the story. And I presume also that the senior producers or the editors were also aware of the genesis of the connection.”
Adams says there was no way that CTV could have disclosed the relationship between Aiello and the alleged victim without potentially exposing her identity.
“Because one of the women we spoke with had worked on Parliament Hill, CTV News took steps before publication and broadcast to ensure that there was no previous contact with any of our journalists that would influence our reporting of this story. Our legal counsel participated in this process,” says Garrow.
“We will not respond to speculation on social media about the identity of any of our sources, and we are disappointed by the false and defamatory claims about their personal relationships with our journalists. An example of the false and unreliable statements on social media is the statement that a CTV News employee was suspended over contributions to this report. This is simply not true.”
Some pictures from the accuser’s and reporter’s respective social media accounts corroborate that they are former co-workers and appear to be on friendly terms. This has led to wild speculation on social media that the reporting was tainted by a conflict of interest — as well as to completely unsubstantiated rumours from conspiracy theorists and Brown supporters who believe there was some sort of collusion between CTV and individuals within the PC or Liberal party to depose Brown as leader. There has been no evidence offered to back up these assertions, but Brown has continued to promote the theory by calling CTV’s report a “fabricated political assassination” and “hit job” by political adversaries that his team of investigators will expose.
On Monday, a mass text from an American number was sent out to PC members with a link to the Toronto Sun article in which Brown claimed the allegations were lies. Another was sent out Wednesday telling members that the “truth will be exposed” in a report on Global, and linked to the Postmedia article questioning CTV’s original story.
On Tuesday night, CTV aired and published a follow-up report stating that both accusers stand by their stories. But the first woman, who had previously told CTV that Brown dropped his pants and told her to perform oral sex on him 10 years ago when she was a teenager, had now revised her story to say that she was in fact of legal drinking age and had graduated from high school. News of this significant development was included in the fifth paragraph of the story.
“The comments made about me on social media were demeaning, victim-blaming and misogynistic. My privacy was invaded, my character was assassinated, and I was subjected to gratuitous slurs about my private life and relationships. The comments that I have been subjected to ignore altogether the abuse of power by an older sober man over a young intoxicated woman,” the alleged victim told CTV.
Her lawyer attributed the discrepancy to “collateral details that inevitably fade over time,” explaining that “These sorts of issues arise routinely in historical cases and cannot be blamed on survivors…”
Despite changing the date of her story, the location the first accuser gave in her original story did not change, as she told CTV reporters she called her friend that lived in the same neighbourhood after the alleged incident took place and stayed overnight. That friend still corroborates her story.
Brown, in his second Facebook volley, posted on Wednesday, blasted the new CTV report and claimed it was an admission they had gotten their story completely wrong.
“Initially, the reporter (and I use that term very loosely) claimed my first accuser was a high school student under legal drinking age. Running scared over its lousy reporting, CTV News now says my accuser was out of high school at the time and was of legal drinking age. Clearly concerned about the backlash it has been receiving as a result of its biased and false reporting, CTV News is trying to change its story and claims the incident happened one year later. The significance of this changed story is monumental.”
“Oftentimes you’re shocked. You’re in a place of fear and paralyzation, so we have to remember that trauma affects memory,” Farrah Khan, manager of Ryerson University’s Office of Sexual Violence, told Global News in an article accompanying the first segment of their one-on-one interview with Brown published Wednesday evening.
CTV’s Tuesday report, which made it clear it stood by its story, also revealed that Brown has hired a private investigator. Alise Mills, a conservative communications expert working for Brown, said Monday that “forensic analysts” were hired. It’s unclear who was hired, and whether or not they’re investigating the CTV journalists or Brown’s accusers, but one private investigator has been distributing pictures of one of the alleged victim’s past partying and naming both women on Twitter.
In the rest of Brown’s statement, he attacked the journalists’ “lousy reporting,” claiming CTV’s Glen McGregor had called one of Brown’s acquaintances the previous day to ask if he had driven the first accuser to Brown’s home on the night of the alleged incident. Brown claims the acquaintance told CTV that it was “completely untrue” but that CTV failed to include this in its report.
McGregor reached out to a former good friend of the first accuser, thought to have been with her on the night in question (after the time frame of her story changed).
“That friend told CTV News he has no recollection of the night,” was how CTV described the source in its report, which the source backs up in a phone interview with CANADALAND.
“I told Glen I never recalled an incident with her and Patrick. I didn’t recall them ever meeting. I didn’t recall them ever meeting each other at a bar. I didn’t recall the night in incident,” he says, on the condition he remain unnamed.
Three back-to-back stories from the Sun, Global News, and CBC dropped throughout Wednesday with new sources, some of them in multiple stories, refuting parts of the accusers’ accounts. The person who said he had no recollection of the event was interviewed for the Sun and CBC reports. (The CBC report had claimed the public broadcaster had an “exclusive phone interview” with him.)
In the Sun article, Brown called the source an “acquaintance.”
“Patrick and I used to be close,” the man tells CANADALAND. “I’ve known him since 2004. I worked for him from 2006 to 2010 in his constituency office.”
“You know, I don’t want to get involved, but by virtue of her mentioning my name, I am involved whether or not I want to [be] or not. And all I can do is give you the factual information as I know it.”
The source says that his impression was that McGregor “expressed shock” when he told him he didn’t recall the night in question or having driven the first alleged victim to Brown’s house.
This source also told CANADALAND that the first accuser, who he used to be good friends with, also used to be best friends with a CTV Vancouver journalist.
“They were best friends. They were very, very close.”
CTV and the journalist in question did not get back to CANADALAND about whether or not the CTV journalist is still close friends with the first accuser or if she put her in touch with McGregor and Aiello.
“You don’t have a sterile environment where you say, ‘Well, there are certain sources I won’t deal with because I know them.’ We’re all trying to cultivate sources and build sources and get access to stories, and a lot of that has to do with social relationships,” says Carleton journalism professor Adams.
The Global News report also included Jim Garland as a source refuting part of the second alleged victim’s story. Garland was the manager at the Bank, a night club where, the night in question, the second accuser says Brown plied her with drinks. In the Global article, Garland “said he never saw Brown buy drinks for women.” The piece doesn’t make clear Garland appears to be business associates with Brown in their ownership of Hooligans, the bar that replaced the Bank.
In Brown’s Wednesday Facebook post, he also claimed that CTV had defamed him, dared his accusers to call Barrie Police and lay charges against him, and urged people to watch his one-on-one interview on Global News that evening.
In the Global interview, a well-rehearsed Brown repeatedly said his accusers’ stories were lies and called CTV’s story a case of “yellow journalism.”
“It was a hatchet job, it was frontier justice. There were three eywitnesses at that event. There were witnesses that spoke to CTV and said they are wrong. And CTV chose to leave that out.”
Brown also pointed out that his second accuser worked for him for well over a year after the alleged incident, volunteered at his leadership campaign, liked his Facebook posts, and called him last year for help on an article she was working on.
“So why all the sudden, someone who was a big fan, who was liking comments that I’m a great boss and a great friend and a great leader, would do this? I want to know who would put her up to this, I want to know who is behind this, because this is just horrific.”
The Sun’s piece published earlier on Wednesday — “Witnesses contradict key allegations from Patrick Brown accusers” — also included a friend of the second accuser, who said she remembers her saying there “was just a kiss, nothing more” and that the alleged victim had regrets for being unfaithful to her boyfriend. CANADALAND could not confirm whether or not this source is a friend of Brown’s. The Sun report also reiterated comments from Brown’s ex-girlfriend, who the Sun’s previous report had described a “longtime friend” of Brown’s, saying the second accuser was following him around that night.
In Brown’s third Facebook volley, released Thursday, he cited the flurry of articles critical of CTV’s reporting as if they constituted a complete debunking of his accusers’ allegations. He also announced that he was going to sue CTV and that his lawyers had contacted the news network. On Friday, the Sun came out with an “exclusive” that Brown had passed a polygraph test.
“CTV News stands by our reporting and will actively defend against any legal action. We welcome the opportunity to defend our journalism in court,” says Garrow in another email sent Friday afternoon.
“You can be absolutely sure that story was lawyered up the yin yang, too,” says Adams.
The fact that CTV is staying steadfast, despite one source altering her story’s timeline and the media reports quoting other sources who cast doubt on the accusers’ stories, suggests CTV may have more information that has not been shared outside the network. There is also the new fact that there is an alleged third victim. Also, it is unclear if these new confidential sources are all friends of Brown. There is additionally clear evidence of him, never a drinker, frequently partying at a club he co-owned in Barrie. A court case would likely unearth Brown’s sober partying past.
After Brown was removed as leader, individuals within the party said they found evidence of fraudulent memberships, vote rigging, and misuse of party funds.
On Friday around noon, interim Ontario PC leader Vic Fedeli announced that he’d removed Brown from the PC caucus, booting him as an elected representative of the party he’s been a member of since he was 14 years old.
And, then, in surprise plot twist, Brown made an eleventh-hour entrance into the new PC leadership race, minutes before the 5:00 p.m. cut-off for registration Friday — declaring that he is once again the right person to lead the party, because “my name has been cleared.”
Clarification (Feb. 17, 2018, 5:25 p.m.): We’ve tweaked the second last paragraph to clarify the distinction between getting booted from a caucus and getting booted from a party.