CTV News is fighting back against Patrick Brown's $8-million defamation lawsuit against them.
The national news agency filed a statement of defence Friday - more than two months after Brown's lawsuit was initiated - that was delivered late in the day to Brown’s legal team.
The crux of former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown’s statement of claim hinges on the alleged innuendo by CTV that Brown illegally provided an underage high-school girl with alcohol, and their reporting that painted him as being guilty of sexual assault. Both statements, he indicates, are untrue.
CTV argues in its statement of defence, obtained by Village Media, that, as Brown had been known in the community to pursue younger women while they were intoxicated and in positions subordinate to his, that their broadcasts are true and are valid political commentary, subject to fair comment laws.
In response to Brown’s assertion in his original statement of claim that the defendants created a “distorted and false narrative, omitting facts counter to the narrative and failing to verify the accuracy of others,” CTV listed all the sources of the information that contributed to their newscasts including recordings of the accounts of 'Accuser 1' and 'Accuser 2', documentary evidence provided by the complainants, public records, independently confirmed details from witnesses and social media postings.
CTV asserts it verified the allegations to the point that they were ready for broadcast.
The statement of defence covers the entire timeline of events leading up to and following Brown’s resignation.
The defence indicates that on Jan. 24, political correspondent for CTV National News, Glen McGregor, sent Brown’s communications advisor, Sarah Letersky, an email outlining the allegations against him with specific requests for comment and a request to participate in an on-camera interview.
“Later that day, Jonathan Lisus, counsel for Patrick Brown, wrote to McGregor indicating that Brown ‘categorically denies these false and defamatory allegations.’ Lisus did not indicate that Brown was prepared to participate in an on-camera interview, request more time to respond to McGregor’s email or indicate that any further communication would be forthcoming,” reads the statement of defence.
The defence further alleges that Brown then hastily organized his press conference ahead of their broadcast, which was widely shared on social media.
“In calling and holding a press conference before the Jan. 24 broadcast aired, the plaintiff amplified the urgency of the matter,” reads the statement of defence.
The defence denies that they had intended to run the Jan. 24 broadcast regardless of a response from Brown.
“CTV has exposed itself to great risk in the litigation by reasserting the truth of what they originally broadcast and by attempting to rely on unsubstantiated rumour to defend their conduct, both of which, in our view, will only serve to aggravate the damages to which Mr. Brown will be entitled,” Howard Winkler, one of Brown’s lawyers, said on Friday.
“In our view, the defamatory meaning of the words broadcast and their devastating impact on Mr. Brown are a matter public record and beyond dispute."
Although served with the lawsuit the week of April 23 with a 20-day time limit on filing their defence, CTV News filed a notice of intent to defer at the beginning of May. After a few more deferrals granted by Brown’s legal team, the news outlet finally submitted their defence on Friday.
Brown, who stepped down in January hours after the CTV report, alleges the network and several journalists involved in the story acted maliciously and irresponsibly in publishing the accusations brought forward by two women.
In his statement of claim, the politician says CTV and its reporters failed to properly scrutinize and verify the allegations, which date back to his time as a federal MP in Barrie.
Brown has vehemently denied the allegations, which have not been independently verified, saying there are discrepancies in the women's stories. He is seeking $8 million in damages and an order that CTV remove all material suggesting he provided underage girls with alcohol.
Brown's allegations have not been proven in court, nor have the allegations made in CTV’s statement of defence.
Brown announced earlier this week that he had filed papers to run for chair of Peel Region after moving there earlier this year.
He also announced in May he’s writing a tell-all book detailing what he describes as his "political assassination." Brown says the new book, titled "Take Down," will chronicle his nearly three years at the helm of the party and offer a detailed look at the events that led up to his resignation in January.
For the full statement of claim and statement of defence, see below.