Journalist who challenged 9/11 story smeared by B’nai Brith, blogger as anti-Semitic ‘conspiracy theorist’
By Barrie Zwicker
Canadian journalist and broadcaster Lesley Hughes compellingly describes her return from the dead in her 150-page memoir, The Dead Candidate’s Report.
The title of the book refers to the personal and professional nightmare she suffered when she was vilified then banished as the Liberal candidate in the Winnipeg, Manitoba, riding of Kildonan-St. Paul in the 2008 Canadian federal election. She shares indelible lessons she learned about the Canadian media—and media in general—of which she remains a part.
The first lesson was about the power of toxic bloggers, one of whom (an anonymous one) ambushed Hughes, slandering her as an anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, 9/11 conspiracy theory nutcase unfit for Parliament. Then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion threw her under the bus too late for the party to replace her.
The tinder of the blogger’s patently false charge was fanned into flames by leading Conservative politician Peter Kent, then minister of the environment in Stephen Harper’s government, and by two organizations – the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith.
“News of my disgrace had topped local and national radio, TV and internet news,” she writes. Her ensuing years-long personal travail carried a heavy personal cost and makes for a stunning case history of media malfeasance.
She takes legal action against the three offenders, which takes much time and effort as well as the mortgaging of her home. But she prevails. The trio retract their lies in late 2012.
What must have weighed heavily in Hughes’s favour was her personal story, her lifetime of documented support for Winnipeg’s Jewish community, and her teaching position at the University of Winnipeg. Over 10 years, about 1,000 students took her communications course there.
During that time, required viewing for them was the brilliant docu-drama Conspiracy, which focuses on the 1943 Wannsee meeting that culminated in the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem.”
Hughes writes in The Dead Candidate’s Report: “For many of my students Conspiracy marked the first time they paid attention to the monstrous reality of the Holocaust. All of them were disturbed by Conspiracy, but most seemed thankful for being exposed to it.”
As a substitute teacher at a private Jewish elementary school, Hughes had helped author Irving Abella, a former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, promote his book None is Too Many. She helped establish a new Jewish retirement home in Winnipeg, speaking at a fund-raising dinner. Five members of her election advisory council were Jewish.
The lawyers for the offenders could see the harm to her reputation of her being branded anti-Semitic. The trio adamantly refuse to apologize, however.
In January 2013, to publicly clear her name and reputation, she addresses their retractions by issuing an email blast, press release and compact media kit “to every major print, broadcast and Internet media outlet in Canada, reaching bloggers, alternative media, student newspapers, journalism schools,” and organizations dedicated to the truth in media. She also sends the material to every member of Parliament and senator and unveils her new website.
So what happens? These same media “stood shoulder to shoulder to look the other way,” Hughes writes.
Their first sin is to carelessly repeat the false claims of anti-Semitism by the anonymous blogger. Their second is the arguably more damaging sin of omission: failure to report her vindication.
She specifically names The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Hill Times, CPAC, National News Watch, CBC National, CTV National, Global TV, Sun Media, Democracy Watch, Post Media and Maclean’s. (As far as I can determine, none of these has reviewed her documented, well-written, and insightful book either.)
“Mercifully,” she writes, “I catch a break at home in the wilderness. The Winnipeg Free Press publishes two comprehensive and detailed stories. CTV Manitoba does a quick and accurate two minutes on the local evening news, and CBC’s Information Radio, the Winnipeg current affairs show I had hosted for a decade allows me an interview.” Nationally, exposure over the next few days “is limited to alternative sites like rabble.ca and the Huffington Post.” Canadian Dimension publishes a substantial interview with her. “After that, nothing.”
The Canadian Dimension piece is a transcript of an interview with her by Paul S. Graham. It’s one of the few sources, if not the only one, describing the transgressions for which the transgressors paid Hughes a substantial undisclosed sum. The non-disclosure agreement forced on Hughes means that the libels of her remain scrubbed from the public record.
Of the anonymous blogger’s claim of anti-Semitism, Graham writes: “This was based, as far as I can see, on one sentence in an article that you wrote in 2002 that challenged the official narratives” around the events of 9/11 “and argued that Canadian soldiers should not be sent to fight in Afghanistan.”
In the transcript, Hughes responds: “It was called ‘Get the Truth.’ And yes, the point, the focus of the column was that Canadians should know and should agree if our country was going to support the Americans in the invasion of Afghanistan. And of course, there were rumbles of the coming invasion of Iraq as well. I think the problem wasn’t so much one sentence as the whole idea of challenging the official story. I had never seen the media behave in quite the way they did after 9/11. Media everywhere became kind of a Greek chorus, basically repeating what George Bush had to say—in spite of the fact that all journalists are taught that the last thing you believe is the official story—the last thing you believe and the first thing you challenge.”
Hughes notes that Prime Minister Stephen Harper “had got out in front of the story before I even knew about it, saying that I had said that Israel was behind the attacks in New York…at the same time admitting he hadn’t read what I wrote.”
The saga causes Hughes to reflect on the Canadian political system as well, beginning in the first chapter, “The Democrat’s Dilemma.” She refers to shortcomings she discovered in the way Canadian democracy works. Her observations resonate with Dave Meslin’s Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up.
The Dead Candidate’s Report suffers some small flaws such as lacking an ISBN number and lacking dates in a few places. A major flaw is lack of an index.
By way of full disclosure I must mention that my name shows up in the book two or three times in positive ways, relating for instance to my 9/11 truth broadcasting for Vision TV, and that Hughes interviewed me on a public stage in Winnipeg on the fifth anniversary of 9/11.
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The Dead Candidate’s Report: A Memoir, published by Titan Press, Winnipeg, 2021. Available (Kindle $9.95, paperback $19.95) from https://www.amazon.ca/Dead-Candidates-Report-Memoir/dp/B09GJG7S68