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CBC: no bias in angry debate about gun control

Several months ago CBC Ottawa ran what turned into a no holds barred debate about gun control. Someone complained about the discussion, charging that CBC host Hallie Cotnam had shown a “lack of respect” for the guest who opposed collecting personal information about gun owners. A CBC Ombudsman review has found no bias in the handling of the exchange.

“I did not find a violation of CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices,”declared Kirk LaPointe for CBC English Services.

Confused and paranoid

According to the review, during the conversation gun control critic John Evers mentioned a traumatic incident in the life of his debating partner, gun control advocate Michael Bryant. The latter had gotten into a fight with a cyclist in 2009, who died in the altercation. Bryant was exonerated of any wrongdoing in a subsequent trial.

The CBC review included this summary of the debate:

Additionally, Evers had said one caller was “confused” about the gun registry issue and another “paranoid” and “should get some help with that” for suggesting the government had eliminated the registry because it might want to stage a coup d’etat.

Evers, attempting to play down the connection between registration and death, noted that Bryant’s Saab was registered but the cyclist “still died.”

At that point, Cotnam said: “John, John, please, let’s try and raise the tone of this discussion.”

Evers replied: “Absolutely.”

Cotnam added: “Mr. Bryant was exonerated.”

Evers said: “Absolutely.”

Cotnam replied: “Just be frank. Please don’t insult our callers as well.”

The discussion resumed with Evers and Bryant participating for several minutes.

Evers was treated fairly, the CBC concluded:

By the time Hollie Cotnam admonished her guest and asked him to carry himself with civility in the discussion, he had made light of the mental health of two callers, described the argument of his fellow panellist as lies, and reached back into a dark chapter of that panellist’s life to make a glib point about death. Her obligation to her audience, to callers and to the other panellist was to restore control of the leash. Cotnam could have cut his microphone for the balance of the segment, but she continued to treat him cordially — as she had to that point — as a full participant with something to contribute to the discussion, even granting him the final word.

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