NDP star candidate the latest criticized for online comments

·National Affairs Contributor
Noah Richler Griffin Poetry Prize, short list announcment, 2010 Photo Tom Sandler

In a campaign most memorable so far for old social media gaffes, star NDP candidate Noah Richler has apologized for comments he made online last year about actress Jennifer Lawrence, as well as another one in response to an article about Quebec racism.

Richler, son of the late novelist Mordecai Richler and himself an author and culture critic, was addressing the nude photo scandal involving the Oscar winner.

Lawrence was one of several actresses whose personal photos were hacked from her phone and distributed online. She deemed it a sex crime but Richler was unsympathetic.

“I don’t give a toss beyond finding it more than a wee bit ironic that a woman whose image has been so blatantly manipulated by the magazine for their mutual financial advantage protests of her leaked nude photos that ‘it’s my body, and it should be my choice.’ Yawn,” Richler wrote online on Oct. 9, 2014.

Richler, who is running in Toronto-St. Paul’s, says in a statement that his words could be misconstrued.

“Looking at the words in retrospect I can see that they might be construed as indifference to women and their sexual exploitation, rather than frustration with the obsessive lens of the celebrity industry. This was never my intent and for that I apologize,” he says in the statement emailed to Yahoo Canada News.

The comment was made in the wake of “exhaustive coverage” of the photo leak scandal, he says.

“Clearly, the comment was pointed at celebrity culture and the commercialized and paradoxical spectacle the situation had become,” Richler says.

He also came under fire in Quebec over comments he made online earlier this year in response to an article that 20 per cent of Quebecers acknowledged being racists.

La Presse reports that he compared those Quebecers to fans of the Chelsea football team, who were caught on video harassing a black man on the Paris metro while chanting: “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”

The media outlet also highlighted now-deleted comments Richler made just prior to the April 2014 Quebec election, in which he says the rest of Canada can imagine, “without any pain,” life without today’s Quebec.

Richler sent La Presse a statement apologizing to Quebecers who were offended by his Facebook comments.

It was a “visceral reaction” to the promotion of exclusion, he told La Presse.

“The Parti Québécois [ Pauline ] Marois proposed a Charter of values ​​to which I did, and I still, profoundly disagree. I do not deny that identity issues are extremely important for me, having spent my professional life studying and celebrating the ties that unite us across our great country.”

A spokeswoman for the NDP called Richler’s comments “hurtful and unacceptable.” But Valerie Dufour told La Presse that Richler’s apology was sincere.

Richler fared better with a YouTube video mocking one of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign ads.

“This is what’s happening to millions of Canadians in 10 years under Stephen Harper,” says the ad, which features Trudeau walking up a down elevator.

“I’ll tell you what’s happening to millions of Canadians,” Richler says in his version. “They’re suffering through a ridiculous ad for a campaign full of pie-in-the-sky promises the Liberals can’t possibly keep that would send Canada into tail spin.

“Here’s the truth of it: Justin’s plans are to spend money the party doesn’t have and doesn’t have to account for,” he says in the video, touting NDP Leader Tom Mulcair as the only man who can stand up for Canadians.

Richler isn’t the only candidate who has been called on the carpet over comments they’ve made on social media. Others have fared worse.

Conservative candidate Tim Dutaud quit the race after a political blogger dug up YouTube prank videos in which he made crank phone calls that made fun of people with disabilities and faked an orgasm.

Another Tory hopeful, Blair Dale, was forced out when the same blogger at Some Random Political Blog exposed controversial comments he made about abortion and racial minorities.

Another blog, the satirical news site True North Times, forced the resignation of NDP candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, Alex Johnstone, over her referring to the fence towers at Auschwitz as “phallic” in an old Facebook posting.

And most recently, Liberal candidate Maria Manna quit the race in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford after CBC News reported on Facebook comments in which she questioned the official version of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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