By Sarah Thomson
Today as I reflect back over the past several months, I know that eventually the truth will come out on Steve Paikin, and more women will step forward with their own horrible experiences. The #MeToo movement has proven that there is strength in numbers.
My ordeal with Steve Paikin is the perfect example of what happens to women who speak out on powerful media personalities. I was warned by many PR experts not to take part in an investigation that was controlled and paid for by TVO – who have a vested interest in protecting him as he brings in a large part of the donations that fund them. I was also warned that the the scope of the investigation could change and eliminate evidence that could damage Mr. Paikin.
And the PR experts were right. The investigator, Rachel Turnpenny, was completely biased and I later learned she had previously worked for the law firm that represented TVO. She eliminated much of the testimony from other women, explaining that TVO would not allow her to investigate anyone but me. The investigator refused to acknowledge another affair between Paikin and the wife of a friend. Or that I had stepped forward to try to stop the affair and save their marriage. The husband was willing to give his testimony to the investigator, but his wifes status in the community required a confidentiality agreement that TVO and Mr. Paikin refused to sign.
My case also had some pretty concrete evidence the biggest being an email I received from my assistant who had attended the lunch with me and witnessed the sexual harassment. The email relays very clearly the events that happened – from how we had hoped to get on his show to his aggressive request that I sleep with him, to my belief that exposing him would hurt me. Yet the investigator seemed to think I had coerced my assistant into writing an email that would have hurt me politically. She conveniently refused to give it any weight in her overall decision – something my lawyer believed a judge would never do because factual evidence is much more reliable than the memory of a witness who can be paid off. My lawyer even had the date, time and IP address of the email authenticated by an outside validation company.
Then there was The FacebookTranscript with EA prior to writing my article. I had messaged my former assistant to check on a few facts and learn about his recollection of Mr. Paikins actions.
The questions I messaged to my EA were the same questions any investigative journalist would ask when piecing together an article. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t inaccurately added anything to my recollection.
Going into the investigation I thought that I was luckier than many women because I actually had a witness – my assistant – who had heard everything Paikin had said to me. He had served as my aid during the formal campaign period, but also during the informal wind down stage of the campaign. His role was to attend events, meetings and canvass beside me. It was not a position for a meek individual. He had to be strong enough to face very opinionated people, and he could hold his own quite well in policy discussions. He prided himself in being a strong feminist. This is why his decision to back-peddle on his testimony and on what he had written quite emphatically in 2010 as well as in his facebook messages to me this year was so devastating. I tried to figure out why he would deny what he had witnessed and subsequently written about the incident. I wondered what could have happened to make him give up his integrity. I can’t believe that he was simply intimidated by Paikin’s pompous blog, and started to wonder if TVO might have paid him off.
That TVO and Mr. Paikin took my complaint to the public after I specifically indicated I wanted it to be kept private, is a tactic that has proven effective for protecting powerful men, but one that most corporations would not condone. Sexual impropriety investigations must be kept private to protect witnesses and encourage others to come forward. Instead, TVO allowed Mr. Paikin to come out loud and threatening over social media. I wasn’t protected but shamed. The shaming was so extreme that it made conditions unsafe for other witnesses to step forward. TVO, is an agency of the Ontario government and their handling of my private complaint, was disgraceful. CEO, Lisa De Wilde did not follow protocol, and employees might have perceived that stepping forward on Mr Paikin would lead to their own public shaming. They completely disregarded the protocol set out by leading corporations across Canada.
During the investigation we had a witness who was, at one time, an intern at TVO, she was told by another employee that Mr. Paikin did this all the time. The employee refused to come forward, which isn’t surprising given the public shaming TVO allowed Paikin to put me through.
Another witness who worked at TVO for 3 years wrote an email to me:
“Good on you girl for exposing Paikin. He has previous encounters and is known for that type of behaviour — and it’s been well known at TVO for years. I wrote: “ Thanks – the hate is pretty rough. Did you work at TVO?
Yes I did, for three years. Can’t really go into it in depth. It’s not worth my life being disrupted.”
None of the evidence above was entered into the investigators report – it’s almost as if she didn’t want the public knowing about the witnesses who were afraid of being publicly shamed. There are hundreds of articles written about how sexual predators bully people into silence. They are often charismatic, they surround themselves with supporters. And they often groom their families, friends and co-workers into believing in their image. “Even people who know them well cannot conceive that they are capable of exploiting others sexually. Such predators are masters of deceit,” states Psychology Today.
I remember how vicious the press were over my claims that Mayor Ford was on cocaine, and the ridicule I received for even suggesting the Mayor had substance abuse problems. I remember how Newstalk 1010 gave entire shows over to discrediting me. I remember how they all went silent when the truth came out. He needed help, and their lack of impartiality delayed that help.
Once again the clickbait media have circled around Mr. Paikin declaring him the saintliest man there ever was on television. Once again they ignore the signs, they avoid the hard investigative work, and they attack the messenger. When the truth comes out, I know they’ll slink away again hoping nobody remembers how they victim shamed and blamed me for stepping forward. I will remember. I hope you do too.
Mr Paiken: You allege that I defamed you. I did nothing of the sort. I specifically told you I wanted this out of the public eye, and instead you blew it up into a spectacle. You could have just chosen to admit you made a mistake. You could have decided to tell the truth and do better going forward for the sake of every woman you know. But you chose to lie and that lie will cause all sorts of calamities that only you and the god of abstract justice will understand.