CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe has a message for journos in his latest review: Don't call your guest names.

CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe has a message for journos in his latest review: Don't call your guest names.

The review was prompted by the October 6 edition of The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, which featured an interview with American, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges on the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Not long into the seven-minute segment, co-host Kevin O'Leary made this remark to Hedges:

Listen, don’t take this the wrong way, but you sound like a leftwing nutbar. If you want to shut down every corporation, every bank, where are you going to get a job? Where are you going to work? Where’s the economy going to go?

Unsurprisingly, Hedges didn't like O'Leary's assessment, telling him that being called "a nutcase engages in the trash talk that's polluted the corporate airwaves."

The conversation then turned to whether O'Leary said "nutcase" or "nutbar". It was tough to recover from there, although LaPointe notes that O'Leary did, eventually, allow Hedges to explain his perspective and "engage in a healthier exchange."

"Not all was lost in the segment," adds LaPointe.

Even so, Hedges last words, after being thanked for joining the show, were: "Well, it will be the last time."


LaPointe acknowledged O'Leary is entitled to his opinion and, in response to the largely negative reaction, remarked:"In this case there is some irony in a public demand to fire someone for expressing an opinion about demonstrators publically expressing theirs."

However, LaPointe added, "There is room at the inn for a range of views, but there is no room for name-calling a guest."

He continued:

At the very least, suggesting Hedges was a “nutbar” undermined what was likely a more interesting discussion. At worst, it permitted The Lang & O’Leary Exchange to be criticized as no different than the all-heat, no-light discussion shows that diminish discourse, far from the ambitions of a flagship business program on a public broadcaster.

O’Leary might have been genuinely curious about Hedges’ views, but his opening salvo only fed contempt, which breached policy. When O’Leary asked Hedges “don’t take this the wrong way,” it came across as disingenuous and begged the question: Is there a “right way” to take being called a nutbar?

While the show's executive producer did apologize to Hedges, and discuss the remarks with O'Leary, LaPointe concluded that closure is better achieved and accountability better demonstrated by communicating the acknowledgement of error to the audience — not just in the form of a private apology.