The prime minister essentially called out the organization—which recently won a federal court case granting them access to the leaders’ debates—for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and other issues. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, straight up refused to answer their questions altogether.
Now, if you’ve never heard of the far-right digital publication also known as Rebel Media before, congratulations, you seem to be doing quite well in life. Good choices so far. And I’m almost sorry to have to make the introduction. Seriously, if you’re going to visit their site, do it in a private browser.
Rebel News was founded in 2015 by a pair of castaways from the failed conservative Sun News Network, including Trump-supporting, libel-case losing Ezra Levant. The “real reporters” (their words) who’ve contributed include Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, and Faith Goldy, who was fired after providing coverage of the 2017 Charlottesville Rally that was too polarizing even for them.
The website features prominent calls for readers to “donate” funds to help send the publication’s reporters to events like this to get dunked on by professionals, like Trudeau, who don’t appreciate their facts-and-science-second approach to journalism.
During a scrum following the Wednesday night French-language leaders debate, Trudeau was asked by a Rebel News rep whether he thinks the federal government should be allowed to determine who is and isn’t a journalist, essentially asking why they weren’t invited to cover the event and had to go to the federal court to get media accreditation.
Then Trudeau, looking and sounding like a stern father, told it like it is:
“The reality is, organizations—organizations like yours—that continue to spread misinformation and disinformation on the science around vaccines … is part of why we’re seeing such unfortunate anger and lack of understanding of basic science,” he said. “Frankly your—I won’t call it a media organization—your group of individuals need to take accountability for some of the polarization that we’re seeing in this country.”
“I salute all extraordinary hard-working journalists who put science and facts at the heart of what they do and ask me tough questions every day, but make sure that they are educating and informing Canadians from a broad range of perspectives—which is the last thing that you guys do,” he said.
The statement comes as the discourse around the COVID-19 vaccine and how to convince those reluctant to take it heats up. Anti-vaccine protests have been cropping up across the country, including a bunch recently held in front of healthcare facilities in centres across British Columbia, and one at one of Trudeau’s campaign rally stops where protesters threw gravel at the prime minister and his team.
Rebel News may be correct that “the government doesn’t have the right to determine who is and is not a journalist,” but readers and viewers do.