SAINT JOHN, N.B. — A daily newspaper in New Brunswick has apologized to Stephen Harper for a story it published on July 8 that said the prime minister slipped a communion wafer in his jacket pocket at a funeral mass for former Gov.-Gen. Romeo LeBlanc.
The front-page apology published in Tuesday’s Telegraph-Journal says the story was “inaccurate and should not have been published.”
“We pride ourselves in maintaining high standards of journalism and ethical reporting, and regret this was not followed in this case,” it says.
Harper has always insisted that he ate the wafer. The archbishop who administered communion said the prime minister did nothing wrong by consuming it, even though he is a Protestant.
Others who attended the funeral have also said they saw the prime minister eat the wafer.
Under church doctrine, it is understood that through the sacrament of the Eucharist, the wafer offered at communion actually becomes the body of Jesus Christ, a belief rejected by Protestants.
Debate over the significance of Harper’s decision to accept the host attracted national attention.
The story in the Telegraph-Journal, which is based in Saint John, quoted a senior Roman Catholic priest as demanding an explanation from Harper on what happened to the host. The story also stated the prime minister put it in his pocket.
“There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now,” the apology says.
It says the unsupported statements were added to the story “in the editing process” and without the knowledge of the reporters who wrote the article.
“The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the prime minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused. We also apologize to reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras and to our readers for our failure to meet our own standards of responsible journalism and accuracy in reporting.”
A spokesman for the prime minister said in an email that the apology had been accepted.
A secretary for Jamie Irving, publisher of the newspaper, referred questions about the apology to Kevin Publicover, acting general manager for the company that owns the Telegraph-Journal, Moncton-based Brunswick News.
Publicover said the company would not make any further comment on the apology.
“Our position is that the statement in the newspaper today is self-explanatory and that we have no further comment on it,” he said in an interview.
The names of Irving and the Telegraph-Journal’s editor, Shawna Richer, were not on the newspaper’s masthead on Tuesday, although they were listed on Monday.
A public relations company that started answering media inquiries later on Tuesday would not comment on why their names were missing from the masthead.