MP is savaged for having pictures of his girlfriend
Attack on Tory's reputation shows how sick things have become
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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Friday, December 7, 2007
As evidence of how sick the House of Commons has become, consider the point of order raised by the NDP's Irene Mathyssen on Wednesday, in which she accused Conservative James Moore of viewing "an image of a scantily clad woman" on his laptop computer in the House of Commons.
She went on: "I feel very strongly that this is not only disrespectful of women, but it is disrespectful of the House. It reflects an attitude of objectifying women. We know that when women and other human beings are objectified and dehumanized they become the objects of violence and abuse."
She then linked this to yesterday's sombre anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. "On the eve of Dec. 6, we have to be mindful that we represent all the people of our communities, men and women, and that we are national leaders here. This is a place of power. The power must be used respectfully and it must be used with humility. I ask that the member apologize to the members of the House."
Moore, clearly shocked by the accusation, replied, "I do not have the faintest idea what my colleague is talking about." For the Liberals, Karen Redman immediately piled on: "I know that this is a very serious allegation, and I would hope that the member who has been accused on this point of order would look into his heart and perhaps look on his laptop."
Moore, mortified by the charge: "I do not know where this attack is coming from. It is utterly baseless. It is utterly nonsensical." Did Mathyssen speak to Moore, who sits a few seats away from her in the House, to seek an explanation before making this charge under parliamentary immunity? Of course not.
But she did speak to reporters a few minutes later in the lobby of the House, where she had no immunity.
Reporter: "Can you explain to us what you saw? You said it's a scantily clad woman. Was it pornography? Was it a Victoria's Secret catalogue?"
Mathyssen: "Well, I would describe it as soft-porn Playboy type stuff."
Reporter: "Brassiere and underwear?"
Mathyssen: "My point is that it's very inappropriate in the House of Commons. We're leaders in this nation. We represent women in our community. And this kind of behaviour speaks volumes."
She then went on to recount how she had seen an image on Moore's computer screen a few minutes before adjournment the previous evening: "It was simply a full screen image of a scantily clad woman."
Reporter: "So, we are talking Victoria's Secret or Playboy?"
Mathyssen: "I'm not an expert."
Reporter: "Was it nudity? Was it nudity?"
Mathyssen: "Not, not full nudity. It was lingerie. It was scanty lingerie."
And so on. Within half an hour, an urgent bulletin moved on the Canadian Press wire. Within an hour, it was on the all-new channels. Within two hours, she was being interviewed by Don Newman on CBC NewsWorld. Within three hours, the story was scheduled to be a leading item on the English-network prime time newscasts.
The story had already moved, unchallenged, to the supper hour news on the CTV affiliate in British Columbia, where Moore is from.
And then everything changed. It turned out that Moore, when anyone bothered to ask him, had been showing another member a picture of his dog, and also had a picture of his girlfriend in a bikini on his screen. That's quite apart from the issue of privacy. Moore, one of the most promising young members of the House, was devastated.
As it happened, voters from his riding were his guests in the visitors' gallery that day. How humiliating is that? As he later said: "That's on Wikipedia under my name for the next five years."
Under pressure to withdraw her outrageous accusation, with even some NDP members disassociating themselves from her, Mathyssen said she had accepted Moore's explanation, apologized and withdrew, and the matter was deemed closed.
But it isn't really. It's proof of the famous line from Edward R. Murrow, that a lie can go around the world while the truth is still putting its pants on. It's evidence of how sick a town Ottawa has become, with open season on people's reputations, and mob rule in the media.
And it's indicative that the useful life of this minority Parliament is very quickly coming to an end.