Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fournier 1

CBC chairman facing ridicule in Quebec

Comments about bestiality and bowel movements cause uproar

Graeme Hamilton, National Post Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2006

MONTREAL - CBC chairman Guy Fournier has become the target of anger and derision in his home province after falsely claiming that Lebanon permits bestiality and for granting a lengthy interview on the joys of bowel movements.

On Sunday night, Mr. Fournier, appeared on one of Quebec's most-watched television shows, Tout le monde en parle, ostensibly to apologize for a magazine column he wrote making the unfounded bestiality claims.

In his Sept. 9 weekly column for the magazine 7 Jours, Mr. Fournier included the following nugget: "In Lebanon, the law allows men to have sexual relations with animals as long as they are female! Doing the same thing with male beasts can result in the death penalty."

The problem was that the information, gleaned from the Internet, was false. Montreal's Lebanese community was incensed, and a local university instructor of Lebanese descent began steps to file a lawsuit.

Addressing the audience of Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle, which regularly numbers more than two million, Mr. Fournier admitted he had not verified the information before publication.

"It was done to make people smile but it has shocked many people in the Lebanese diaspora, so I apologize to them," he said. He added that from now on he will stop all outside activities, including the 7 Jours column, and focus on his role with the public broadcaster.

The show's host, Guy A. Lepage, then moved the discussion along, digging up a little-noticed interview Mr. Fournier gave last May to a small French-language radio station in Toronto, during which the CBC/Radio-Canada chairman rhapsodized about defecation for more than 10 minutes.

Mr. Fournier recounted a train trip in the early 1960s during which a friend named Michel said going number two was as pleasurable as having sex.

"From that moment, I started paying closer attention -- and I have to tell you, I quickly realized that Michel was entirely right," Mr. Fournier said.

"And the most extraordinary thing is that, in the end, as you grow older, you continue to go poop once a day if you are in good health, while it is not easy to make love every day. So finally, the pleasure is longer-lasting and more frequent than the other."

He also advised against distractions while on the toilet. "There are even people who push the heresy to the point of doing Sudoku or crosswords rather than concentrating on the pleasure that they would have doing the thing," Mr. Fournier told his radio interviewer. "It is just as heretical as if you read the National Post while making love. It is not to be recommended."

Writing in Le Soleil yesterday, TV critic Richard Therrien said Mr. Fournier's attempt at damage control backfired. "No, Fournier did not come off as more sympathetic but more foolish. How long is he going to survive on the board of directors?" Mr. Therrien asked.

Alain-Michel Ayache, a political science instructor at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, said he had not decided whether Mr. Fournier's televised apology was sufficient for him to abandon his planned lawsuit.

"A journalist is logically double-checking any information prior to any publication whatsoever," he said. "I was astonished to know that, despite this fact, he still wants to hold his position as chairman of CBC ... If any other journalist had made a similar mistake, he would have been definitely put aside."

Pascale Montminy, a spokeswoman for the CBC, said Mr. Fournier was not available for comment yesterday.

Veronique Bruneau, press secretary to federal Heritage Minister Beverley Oda, said the Minister was satisfied that Mr. Fournier had retracted his comments about Lebanon and had apologized. "As a journalist, he should have verified his sources and been accurate," she said.

Mr. Fournier, 75, was appointed to a five-year term as chairman by the Liberal government last September.

He is a well-known author, playwright and producer in Quebec.


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