Ezra Levant issues on-air apology for Roma comments

Sun News commentator Ezra Levant. Photo courtesy of TwitterHey, waddaya know? Ezra Levant knows how to pronounce the word “sorry.”

The purposely-controversial Sun News Network mouthpiece issued an official apology for slurring the entire Roma population on Monday, saying he regrets essentially accusing the entire community of being an organized crime syndicate.

It only took him six months to do it, but he now admits it was wrong.

On his show The Source, Levant said the attack went against his position as an “anti-racism activist.”

When I look at some of the words I used in that show - like "the gypsies have gypped us" - I gotta admit that I did more than just attack a crime or immigration fraud problem. I attacked a particular group, and painted them all with the same brush. And to those I hurt, I'm sorry.

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Gina Csanyi-Robah, executive director of the Roma Community Centre, told the Globe and Mail the apology seemed insincere. The group had reported the Sept. 5 comments as a hate crime and called them “one of the longest and most sustained on-air broadcasts of hate-speech against any community in Canada that we’ve witnessed since our organization was established in 1997.”

Jewish community leaders also spoke out against Levant’s comments, writing in a National Post editorial that, “If the Sun News Network had aired an attack on Jews, the whole country would be outraged.”

Following his apology on Monday, Ezra spoke on air with Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke, who shared this less-than scathing rebuke:

One thing I know for sure, Ezra, is that you are somebody who has a kind heart. You are actually quite a happy warrior.... But you crossed the line on this one, and I don't think it (was) done for any reason of malice or with any ill-motivation at heart.

One might wonder what Levant’s motivation was for issuing this “better late than never” apology. In fact, several were led to wonder that, and this seems to be the common consensus:

From Maclean’s:

[T]he apology does serve a secondary purpose, as Sun News Network is currently seeking a placement on basic cable from Canada’s broadcast regulator. And the fact that they’ve been dogged by ethics groups over content, and views voiced by Levant, has made that goal more difficult.

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The Globe and Mail’s Steve Ladurantaye added that to the win a spot on basic cable, Sun News execs must convince regulators next month that the network “contributes positively and uniquely to Canadian culture.”

Some on Twitter suggested that Sun News should receive a basic cable slot once Levant can go a full year without being sued or issuing an apology. Doubtful the network would agree to such a deal.

For the record, here are the comments that led to Levant’s apology:

These are gypsies, a culture synonymous with swindlers. The phrase gypsy and cheater have been so interchangeable historically that the word has entered the English language as a verb: he gypped me. Well the gypsies have gypped us. Too many have come here as false refugees. And they come here to gyp us again and rob us blind as they have done in Europe for centuries … They’re gypsies. And one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging.