Tory MPs say journalist’s tweet incites violence

Conservative MPs have asked the parliamentary press gallery to revoke a freelance reporter’s access to the Hill after he posted a tweet they saw as a threat that could incite violence against politicians.

The controversy stemmed from Saskatchewan MP Garnett Genuis’ reference to British band Queen during Question Time Wednesday, as a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed in London while singing the band’s song “Bohemian Rhapsody” last weekend ahead of the funeral. of Queen Elizabeth II.

In a Twitter message shortly after, Dale Smith, an accredited member of the press gallery, wrote: “Genuis is trying to include lyrics from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in his question, and I can’t adequately tell you how weak it is. When horses are that lame, you shoot them.”

On Thursday, Genuis, who represents Sherwood Park-Fort riding, asked the House to revoke Smith’s privilege of the press corps, a demand echoed by his colleagues, Member of Parliament Raquel Dancho, the public safety critic of the United States. party, and the leader of the Conservative House, Andrew Scheer.

“This is incredibly serious and I would like to ask you to give it your full attention and explore further measures that can be taken, Madam Chair. This comes at a time when we are becoming increasingly aware of threats of violence against MPs and politicians at all levels and all levels of government,” Dancho said.

“We have all experienced an aggressive person at the doorway, at events. When we walk down the street and stay quiet, we don’t want to give the impression that we are whining. We don’t want to complain about it. We certainly don’t want to encourage others to act in that threatening way.”

Just minutes ago, Genuis told the House he was really concerned about his safety in front of Smith, even though some people would dismiss the Twitter post as a joke.

“Mr. Smith is currently an accredited member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, which gives him relatively unobstructed access to the mound. So he might be in the Press Gallery somewhere today. He can follow me in the hallways or hang out outside our caucus waiting for me I don’t have to think about whether I will meet someone in the halls of parliament who has threatened me,” he noted.

“That current reality of access is affecting my ability to perform my functions as a member.”

What would threaten Genuis came after a series of incidents over the summer in which journalists, especially women of color, and politicians were threatened and harassed by trolls, sometimes in public arenas.

When reached on Thursday night, Smith said he would not comment until the Speaker of the House makes a ruling.

However, in a previous blog post, Smith called the conservatives’ response to his tweet “the intimidation game.”

“If you are critical of someone on their team, they declare that you are biased, even if you are critical of every team. They cry and moan, hoping you’ll either apologize or back off, and then they’ll know you’re weak and they can silence you through these kinds of tactics,” Smith wrote, who did not apologize.

This latest tension between the conservatives and the press followed a clash last week between their newly minted leader Pierre Poilievre and David Akin, chief political correspondent for Global News, over the politician’s initial refusal to answer questions after a press conference. Akin was called a liberal heckler.

In a statement, the press gallery said it wanted to “disconnect” from Smith’s comments.

“We also want to remind that all of us, journalists and politicians, have a responsibility to promote healthy and professional public debates,” said President Guillaume St-Pierre, head of the parliamentary bureau of “Le Journal de Montréal.”

“The Press Gallery wants to emphasize that harassment, in all its forms, is unacceptable.”

He claimed that the gallery operates independently of political interference and that it is not up to politicians to determine who is or is not a member.

The House Speaker’s office said no decision had yet been made on the Conservative MPs’ request.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based immigration reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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