Trudeau and Trump.
There’d always been the similarities between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump.
You know: Sons of multimillionaires. Celebrated surnames. Chasing aspiring models and actresses. Private schools, privileged lives. Charmed existence.
Charter members of the Lucky Sperm Club, basically.
And now Trump and Trudeau share another distinction: They’ve both been caught spreading mistruths and misinformation on social media. And, when caught, they refused to admit it. They refused to apologize.
Asked about postings made by his deputy prime minister — postings which Twitter labelled as “manipulated media” — Trudeau smirked. He defended what is indisputably, inarguably fake media.
And, in so doing, has created a big problem for himself.
A recap: Chrystia Freeland posted tweets, in English and French, purporting to show Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole answering a question during his party’s leadership race last year and seemingly answering “yes” when asked if he favours privatized health care.
Except he didn’t say that.
In fact, the full video is more than two minutes long and in it, O’Toole stressed that universal health care is paramount. In fact, he said the opposite of what Freeland claimed.
The Liberals had surreptitiously edited the video down to make it seem O’Toole had said something he hadn’t.
For the Liberal war room, it was a disaster. Even Liberal-friendly news outlets like the CBC and the Toronto Star ran critical stories about what Freeland had done. Twitter, for its part, has refused to remove the warning — which its rules say is done in cases where information has been “significantly and deceptively altered or manipulated.”
Did Trudeau apologize for his team’s deception? Did he retract?
Not on your life. Trudeau retweeted Freeland’s disinformation — and then doubled down.
As Trump did so many times — about coronavirus, about his critics, about Joe Biden (who this writer worked for, full disclosure) — Trudeau refused to acknowledge that he and his team had propagated fake news online. He refused to take responsibility for spreading falsehoods.
“Erin O’Toole came out unequivocally for private health care … for-profit health care,” Trudeau said to reporters Monday. “I encourage all Canadians to take a look.”
Some will. Some will come away with the same conclusion as Twitter: It’s bald-faced lie.
Why didn’t Trudeau just apologize and move on? Good question.
Trudeau, like Trump, boasts millions of followers on Twitter. Like Trump, his words and deeds command attention. He runs an entire country, just like Trump did. Maybe he thinks he can get away with it — like Trump apparently thought.
Twitter didn’t, and doesn’t, care about all that. They ultimately kicked Trump off their platform.
In May 2020, Twitter restricted a Trump post for glorifying violence. In the same month, other Trump tweets were cited for violating Twitter’s rules. That June, they removed a Trump tweet for violating copyright.
And then, again in June 2020, Team Trump were cited for “manipulated media” — just like Team Trudeau have been. The label was slapped on a fake CNN broadcast about race-baiting. It could have been argued that the Trump tweet was satirical.
But that can’t be done in the case of the fabricated O’Toole tape. In that case, the manipulation was intentional, methodical and in both official languages. It wasn’t a lame attempt at satire. It was deliberate disinformation. It was fake news.
By refusing to apologize, Justin Trudeau has kicked the story into another day, and possible more.
By refusing to come clean, Justin Trudeau has degenerated into something we thought we’d never see:
— Warren Kinsella taught media law and ethics at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law