Jonathan Kay, the comment editor of the National Post, took half a page in his newspaper last month to criticize me for criticizing Justin Trudeau.
I had insulted Trudeau, said Kay. So Kay insulted me as “cruel,” “hysterical,” “low,” “vile,” “half-demented” and “mendacious.” And he accompanied his column with a huge, unflattering picture of me. He said I wasn’t really even a journalist.
That’s fine – Kay and I have been frenemies for years, and I enjoy this playfighting. But it was unusual to see such passion in the defence of Trudeau. The Liberal Party’s ideas on everything from terrorism to taxes are the opposite of the Post’s editorial views, and its readers’ views. But if that’s what Kay really thinks about me and Trudeau, that’s fair.
But is the rousing defence of Trudeau really Kay’s honest view? Or is it a reflection of a private business arrangement with the Liberals that Kay kept hidden from his readers until another newspaper revealed it last weekend?
That’s when the Toronto Star dropped the bombshell that Kay assisted in the creation of Trudeau’s new book.
Suddenly Kay’s thoughts on Trudeau look different. For example, earlier this year the CBC’s Wendy Mesley asked Kay about Trudeau’s embarrassing gaffes.
Kay jumped to the defence, saying Trudeau just “loves to speak from the heart” and that “Sun News has basically become a research department for the government” and that Trudeau’s gaffes are “going to be seized upon by that small network and… exploited to make him look bad.”
It was an odd thing to say back then, because the Post also reports on Trudeau’s gaffes. But in the light of the news of Kay’s secret work for Trudeau, his accusation that the Sun is somehow in cahoots with the Conservative Party now seems positively Freudian.
It’s not rare for journalists to assist on or even ghost write books for politicians. But what are the ethics of the comment editor for a national newspaper keeping that fact a secret from his readers, even while viciously attacking Trudeau’s critics? It must have been an inside joke, between Kay and his Liberal friends, when he took a dig at the Sun for being in the pocket of the Conservatives – while secretly being in the pocket of the Liberals himself.
I asked my old frenemy how he could keep his Trudeau work a secret from his readers, while choosing what the newspaper’s comment section would publish about Trudeau. His excuse was laughable, telling me “during the period when I worked on the book, I was removed from my oversight duties pertaining to editorial content on the subject of federal politics. And that’s all I’ll say to Sun News on this.”
Got it. So, the moment the cheque was cashed, he got right back to writing pro-Trudeau editorials. All without disclosing his financial interest to his readers.
And, like the Liberal Party, he doesn’t have anything more to say to the Sun. You see, we’re in the pocket of the Conservatives.
I’ll never know if Kay’s bizarre defence of Justin Trudeau and attack on me last month was because he was a paid part of the Liberal campaign, or if he really meant it.
Neither will readers of the National Post. But unlike readers of the Sun and the Star, Post readers still don’t even know they’re reading columns about Trudeau hand-picked by someone who helped Trudeau write his book.