On Friday morning, the venerable literary journal posted an article by Ghomeshi, who had been fired in 2014 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Though guaranteed to generate backlash for its personal exculpation marinated in self-pity, the piece’s egotistical approach also obscures the facts of the case.
A key paragraph runs:
In October 2014, I was fired from my job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after allegations circulated online that I’d been abusive with an ex-girlfriend during sex. In the aftermath of my firing, and amid a media storm, several more people accused me of sexual misconduct. I faced criminal charges including hair-pulling, hitting during intimacy in one instance, and—the most serious allegation—nonconsensual choking while making out with a woman on a date in 2002. I pleaded not guilty. Several months later, after a very public trial, I was cleared on all counts. One of the charges was separated and later withdrawn with a peace bond—a pledge to be on good behavior for a year. There was no criminal trial.
When Ghomeshi says “allegations circulated online” it sounds like they appeared on Facebook or a blog post. In fact, the trigger for his firing was the pending publication of reported news story in The Toronto Star, one of Canada’s oldest and most respected newspapers. The phrase “several more people accused me of sexual misconduct” is, at best, vague. In fact, there are 24 separate allegations of sexual assault, many involving brutal behavior such as choking and punching. Later in the essay, he suggests that his misconduct was an outgrowth of becoming a celebrity. But in fact, some of the allegations against him date to his days as a university student.
Nor does Ghomeshi mention that the charge that was withdrawn was done so on the condition that he admit to wrongdoing. The statement made by the complainant Kathryn Borel after Ghomeshi acknowledged his misconduct is worth quoting because it is far more specific and detailed than the narcissistic reverie that the New York Review of Books published:
My name is Kathryn Borel. In December of 2014, I pressed sexual assault charges against Jian Ghomeshi. As you know Mr. Ghomeshi initially denied all the charges that were brought against him. But today, as you just heard, Jian Ghomeshi admitted wrongdoing and apologized to me. It’s unfortunate but maybe not surprising he chose not to say much about what exactly he was apologizing for. I’m going to provide those details for you now. Every day over the course of a three-year period, Mr. Ghomeshi made it clear to me that he could do what he wanted to me and my body. He made it clear that he could humiliate me repeatedly and walk away with impunity.
There are at least three documented incidents of physical touching. This includes the one charge he just apologized for, when he came up behind me while I was standing near my desk, put his hands on my hips and rammed his pelvis against my backside over and over, simulating sexual intercourse.
Throughout the time that I worked with him, he framed his actions with near-daily verbal assaults and emotional manipulations these inferences felt like threats or declarations like I deserved to have happening to me what was happening to me. It became very difficult for me to trust what I was feeling.
Ghomeshi presents his experiences of being accused as “a crash course in empathy.” But the essay he wrote shows very little empathy. Instead, he continues to minimize his misconduct and spends thousands of words trying to elicit pity for the figure he seems to see as the true victim of the story: himself.