Danielle Smith fires campaign operators after ‘racist’ comments

“I have been made aware of a horrific clip involving a telephone bank contractor that we have engaged to assist our campaign, which I find offensive and completely unacceptable,” she said in a tweet.

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The suspected UCP leader of the leadership race Danielle Smith has dropped her campaign phone workers after videos surfaced in which former Alberta Attorney General Jonathan Denis appeared to make fun of Indigenous people.

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On Wednesday, after at least three of the videos were widely circulated, Smith tweeted that she dumped a telephone bank contractor who worked for her campaign. The contractor was later identified as the conservative political organization Progressive Group for Independent Business.

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“I have been made aware of a horrific clip involving a telephone bank contractor that we have engaged to support our campaign, which I find offensive and completely unacceptable,” she said in a tweet.

“I will not be associated with such behavior and have directed my campaign to terminate any contract or other dealings with the company involved.”

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Smith said that as a person of Indigenous descent, she stands in solidarity with First Nations people to “Dispel all stereotypes that undermine their invaluable contributions to our country.” (Smith has previously said that her grandmother had a relative who was Cherokee.)

About the videos, Smith said: “To be clear, the former justice minister in the clip never played a role in my campaign.”

The videos show a man, apparently Denis, speaking into a phone in an exaggerated voice, making comments like “you’re passing by the liquor store” and “the county took our casino … just a bunch of white men chasing come to us.”

In a statement, Denis said he can’t remember those words, but he didn’t completely ignore them.

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“I don’t remember these events, but I may have said them years ago while under the influence of alcohol. If so, then I’m really sorry,” he said.

“I recognize that I have consumed too much alcohol in the past and haven’t in a while. If these are real events, I offer my unreserved apologies to anyone I have offended.”

He also noted that “the authenticity of the videos has not been established.”

Jonathan Denis, former attorney general in Alberta, photographed during a 2014 Edmonton press conference.
Jonathan Denis, former attorney general in Alberta, photographed during a 2014 Edmonton press conference. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia

Former Conservative political agent Craig Chandler — who said he had managed Smith’s phone bank from his home in southwest Calgary since the campaign began — said he was fired by the Smith on Wednesday for appearing briefly in one of the videos. and spoke.

Some of the videos, he said, were shot outside his then-southeast home at a barbecue two years ago, as he and Denis joked about a comedic audiotape featuring a fictional Native radio station called Brocket 99 that many consider racist.

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“This was a private feature and was taken out of context. . . We were just kidding about that comedy routine,” Chandler said, adding another of the widely shared videos that he was not familiar with.

“It had nothing to do with the campaign.”

Both he and Denis said the former attorney general never volunteered on the phone or in any other role on Smith’s campaign, and also rejected the idea that they were racist.

Chandler said he was kicked out of the campaign in the last days by a candidate rocked by a repeat of the 2012 provincial election in which a lead for Smith’s Wildrose party quickly evaporated after she failed a candidate who made comments about homosexuals. had been condemned to burn in a “lake of fire”.

Chandler said this week: “I got her (leadership) win and got thrown under the bus. . . she’s been feeling busy the last few days.

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“She’s the one who preached against the cancellation culture and is doing it now.”

Nevertheless, Chandler predicted that Smith will win the leadership vote, to be decided on Oct. 6, and said that if she does, he would be happy to help her and the UCP campaign in next spring’s election.

Political scientist Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University said in a tweet on Wednesday, “Maybe Smith learned something from the lake of fire.”

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His fellow MRU political scientist Lori Williams said the episode probably won’t have much impact on the leadership contest, as so many voters have already voted.

But it could have an effect on next spring’s provincial election if Smith is elected as UCP leader and prime minister.

“The biggest question is, ‘why was Chandler hired in the first place?’ There’s a bigger matter of judgment,” she said.

“How is she going to appeal to the general electorate?”

In a tweet before Smith fired Chandler, leadership rival Brian Jean called on her to do just that, calling the episode abhorrent.

In my first hour as a Wildrose leader, I was asked to solve a problem that was nowhere as offensive and unacceptable as this,” he wrote.

“I acted – decisively. This is not a one-off: three videos and one voicemail. It is horribly intentional racist behavior.”

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In August, after public complaints of abusive phone calls purportedly from the Smith campaign, Wildrose’s candidate and former party leader denied they were from her volunteers or staff.

Chandler reiterated that denial, saying that the telephone bank, operated by his Progressive Group for Independent Business, was not working at the time of those calls.

The political agent is suing Bratt and MRU for libel over the academic’s comments on the matter he made last August — legal action Bratt calls frivolous harassment.

[email protected]

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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