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Did “d” or didn’t “d”?

That’s the question Canadians are asking themselves today about Saskatchewan MP Tom Lukiwski’s victory speech on October 19. In the speech, he refers to the provincial election coming up next April and puts his support behind the Tory candidate, who he says is “too important of an MLA to let go down to an NDP–” and here he either says “whore” or “horde.” A small difference in enunciation and a world of difference in meaning.

The video of this speech was recorded by Saskatchewan journalist Mickey Djuric while she was working at the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. She quit her job at the newspaper on Wednesday when editors decided not to publish the video and the story she wrote, which suggested that he may have said the word “whore” in reference to NDP candidate Karen Purdy.

Djuric says while she was at the event filming, recording and tweeting, she thought she heard Lukiwski say “whore” but assumed that she must have misheard him. It was only after she came back from vacation and revisited the video of the speech–which she realized she hadn’t uploaded–that she was certain she heard him say it. “I gasped,” she says.

Djuric called other people in the newsroom over and asked them to listen to the video. She says they all heard him say “NDP whore.” They sent the audio, not the video, to Purdy, who agreed that he had used the word. Lukiwski didn’t hear the audio or see the video but told Djuric over the phone that he didn’t use that word. She says he called her back a few minutes later after asking his co-workers, who said they remembered him saying “hordes.” Djuric remembers the editors feeling that this story was important and agreeing that Lukiwski said “whore.”

The Moose Jaw Times-Herald decided not to run the story on Monday, according to Djuric, because the editors didn’t want the story to be buried under the news of Brad Wall’s announcement on Syrian refugees. But when she got to the newsroom on Tuesday morning, Djuric says she sensed a change. “I just had a feeling, because the whole mood in the newsroom changed regarding the story,” she says.

Craig Slater, the managing editor, says that Lukiwski’s different version of events “made us pause a little bit.” Slater says he and other editors were concerned that nobody had reacted to the speech on election night. “When someone of that stature says something like that, you would expect there to be a reaction,” he says. “But there wasn’t any.”

Djuric says Slater was worried the paper could be sued, and she argued that they could publish the video and use Purdy’s interpretation to avoid liability. “I was very adamant that the public needed to see the video. They had a right to see the video and I knew it was of public interest,” she says. Slater says he was concerned that it wasn’t their place to suggest what Lukiwski may have said. “We didn’t want to create a he-says-versus-we-allege situation,” Slater says.

On Tuesday evening, she was given the final word that the story wouldn’t run: not Wednesday and not ever. “It just hit me that I had to walk away,” Djuric says.

She went in to Slater’s office the next morning and handed in her resignation after almost 18 months at the paper. Djuric says she feels that she did the right thing because she became a journalist to uncover the truth.  Slater says he’s confident that the editors made the right call. “Unless there’s a 100 percent, without a doubt, bet your life that’s the word you heard, we weren’t going to go with it.”

– With files from Fatima Syed

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About the author

Erin Sylvester is the head of research for the Spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. Her work has appeared in several publications, including the Calgary Herald and the Torontoist.

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