CBC News has not disclosed what disciplinary action was taken against journalist Wendy Mesley, in a June 25, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

CBC News host Wendy Mesley disciplined for using racist slur twice in work meetings

TORONTO — CBC News has taken disciplinary action against journalist Wendy Mesley in light of her admission that she used a racist slur on two separate occasions during editorial meetings in the past year.

Chuck Thompson, CBC’s head of public affairs, said an internal review confirmed Mesley “used offensive language” last fall and again recently, but a statement from Mesley has made it clear she used the N-word.

Thompson wouldn’t specify what disciplinary action is being taken against Mesley, who has been off the air for about three weeks during the review.

On her Twitter account Thursday, Mesley said she “used a word, and yes, it’s the word people think” during a call with colleagues while preparing for a segment of “The Weekly” about anti-racism earlier this month.

Mesley said she used it “not as a slur,” but while quoting a word that a journalist had been called — a journalist they were considering as a panellist on the show.

She said she thought by saying the full word, she “was somehow exposing the truth,” but now realizes her “abuse of the word was harmful” and she’s “deeply sorry and ashamed.”

Mesley said she also used the word last September while quoting a book title during preparation for an episode of “The Weekly” on Quebec’s Bill 21, which bars some public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols while at work.

She said she “wanted to add some context about why Bill 21 might have got the support it’s had.”

“I referenced one of the more influential tomes of Quebec political thought called ‘White (N’s) of America,’” Mesley wrote in her Twitter post.

“The book uses the full word, and argues that white francophones are victims of discrimination. The book was written in French, but the title is in English. I said the full title in the meeting.”

Mesley said shortly after, a colleague told her that using that word “had made people deeply uncomfortable.”

“I wish I’d treated that more seriously, instead of assuming it was OK because my intentions had been to share outrage and understanding, not to offend,” she said.

“It is in the same context that I used the word while preparing our recent episode in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. I thought that by using the word in reference to journalism I was shining a light on anti-Black racism. I now realize that I did the opposite and I am now one example of the problem.”

Mesley said she’s now going to “spend time listening and learning,” and won’t be commenting further.

Thompson said the CBC will not be commenting “on any aspect of the review” or any details pertaining to the disciplinary action.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.

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