OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Thursday he’ll do no further interviews with conservative news outlet the Rebel until it changes its editorial direction, following its coverage of last weekend’s protests in Charlottesville, Va.
Scheer’s declaration he’ll stay away was followed hours later by Brian Jean and Jason Kenney, both running for leadership of the new United Conservative Party in Alberta, distancing themselves as well.
While all three had condemned the violence in Virginia last weekend, they’d also previously stopped short of addressing the Rebel’s coverage, seen by some as sympathetic to the white nationalists who initially organized the event that later collapsed into clashes that killed one counter-protester and injured nearly 20 others.
“I am disgusted by the vile comments made by hate groups this past weekend,” Scheer said in a statement Thursday.
“I believe there is fine line between reporting the facts and giving those groups a platform. I have a positive vision for Canada and I want to share that vision with Canadians and talk about issues that unite us all. Until the editorial directions of the Rebel Media changes, I will not grant interviews to the outlet.”
Scheer is among many Conservative members of Parliament who’ve appeared on the outlet’s various online shows since it started up in 2015 following the demise of the conservative Sun News Network.
It has long courted all manner of controversy, from a boycott of Tim Hortons when it pulled ads about the oilsands from its stores, to rallies that featured chants of “lock her up” about Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to a piece by contributor Gavin McInnes originally titled 10 things I hate about Jews.
Former MP and cabinet minister Kenney noted on social media he hadn’t done an interview with the outlet in over a year and had “publicly condemned their alt-right editorial direction of recent months.”
The alt-right is a term adopted by some white supremacists and nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, and the movement was the driving force behind the events in Virginia; they’d organized a rally originally billed as seeking to unite the right.
But the violence that ensued and the hate-laced speech at and around the event has seen the mainstream right under pressure to differentiate their politics from those of that movement — including pressure to break with the Rebel because of its coverage.
While it isn’t the role of the elected officials to dictate who is and isn’t media, the Rebel’s work is raising concerns, Jean suggested in his statement.
“Recent events have me concerned with the commentary and editorial direction coming from Rebel Media,” he said.