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Calgary City councillors are refusing to do interviews with the Calgary Herald and an advertiser has requested that an ad be pulled, after a column was published that dismisses sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh testified in front of the Senate judiciary committee on Thursday after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused the U.S. Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault when the two were in high school in 1982.

The column, written by Naomi Lakritz, is titled: “Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve this. What happened in high school stays in high school.”  

In the piece, Lakritz compares the accusations against Kavanaugh to the Salem witch trials. She writes that people should not be blamed for what may or may not have happened in high school and that “the #MeToo movement has run off the rails and is out of control.”

The piece received backlash on social media, including tweets from councillor Jyoti Gondek who said she “will not be replying to interview requests from [Calgary Herald] journalists until the editorial board recognizes the impact of their decision to minimize the gravity of high school sexual assault.”

Lucinda Chodan, Postmedia’s vice-president of editorial in the eastern region, wrote in an email to the Ryerson Review of Journalism that Postmedia publishes a wide range of commentary that not all readers will agree with. She says exposing readers to opinions that are different from their own is “important in a democratic society.”

Ms. Lakritz’s opinion is not the same as the editorial position of the Calgary Herald. However, we defend her right to express it,” Chodan wrote in the email.

Gondek also wrote a lengthy Facebook post about the column. “Tell me how I can do this differently so that your editorial board understands the gravity of their actions,” she wrote.  “I’ll speak with you about how we move forward, just not in a manner that allows your employer to benefit from my words at this point in time.”

When the RRJ reached out to Gondek, she declined to comment, but she says she hopes journalists will reflect on what role they can play in changing the narrative on sexual assault.

Cam Clark Ford, a car dealership in Calgary, posted on Twitter that they contacted Postmedia to request that their ads be pulled from the column as Lakritz’s opinion does not align with the dealership’s values and they “do not endorse them in any way.”

Druh Farrell, another city councillor, also took issue with the column.

The [Calgary Herald] has some great writers but I can’t stand by while sexual assault is trivialized,” Farrell tweeted Thursday. She also wrote on Twitter that she will not be taking any interview requests from the Herald until they retract and apologize, and has even threatened to block the news outlet on social media.

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