Open Letter to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)

Legal Principles
Diana Davison
January 23, 2019

I am writing in regards to the November 8, 2018 article titled “Hedley singer’s behaviour got worse with fame – and went unchecked by those around him, ex drummer says” authored by Judy Trinh.

The article admits that the primary source for the story, the former drummer for the band Hedley, was fired by the band and may have reason to lie about the current band members. Indeed, the statement from the band’s lawyer indicates a number of problems with the credibility of the source, Chris Crippin, and that these credibility problems should be obvious to any reasonable person. Simply publishing the statement, and noting he was fired, does not overcome the problem that the article almost exclusively focuses on allegations made by this source against his former band mates, and singer Jacob Hoggard in particular. Mr. Crippin’s lack of credibility is, in fact, obvious to any fair minded person.

As a publicly funded broadcaster, the CBC should be held to the highest ethical standards of journalism. The CBC’s own standards and practices on sources, as outlined on your website, declares “the values of accuracy, fairness and integrity guide our handling of sources and the information they bring.” Using Mr. Crippin as a source to make disparaging remarks and allegations about his beleaguered former band, while Mr. Hoggard is facing a future criminal trial and thus can’t respond openly, is not merely unfair – it is irresponsible. Mr. Crippin makes numerous claims and statements which are easily disproved by publicly available information.

Mr. Crippin is not questioned sufficiently when he claims he tried to address and deter the poor behaviour in the band that he alleges. A simple internet search for footage of the band’s film from their early years leads to a YouTube copy of the Hedley DVD “Try This At Home” in which one chapter features Mr. Crippin drunk and disorderly, suggesting they misuse the band credit card to “buy hookers.” Mr. Crippin is also trying to break into the hotel room of two band members with the suggestion to the younger, Mr. Hoggard, that Hoggard should “dangle his balls” in the other men’s faces while they sleep. This is footage from approximately 2006, at the beginning of the band’s career. Mr. Crippin is around ten years older than Mr. Hoggard and is clearly instigating, encouraging Mr. Hoggard to engage in sexually inappropriate behaviour. The link to this portion of the video was tweeted to Judy Trinh within nine hours of her tweeting a link to her article and there has been no correction to the article about Mr. Crippin’s claims to have been morally responsible while with the band. Nor have any other corrections or updates been made to reflect the video evidence that other elements of the story, like the title, are contradicted by all available evidence.

This film clearly shows that the band’s behaviour improved over time, yet the improbable claim that Hoggard’s behaviour deteriorated over time is featured in the title and implies that Mr. Hoggard was more likely to commit a crime in 2016, the year alleged in the criminal charges. A viewing of the video, which appears to be from 2006, makes the CBC’s suggestion that Mr. Hoggard’s behaviour worsened in later years is not only improbable but likely impossible. In the full film, Mr. Crippin states that he is surprised all the members of the band aren’t in jail due to their bad behaviour. One of the band members is stripped in public by his band mates after a police officer puts handcuffs on him, leaving him handcuffed with no pants or underwear covering him. Mr. Crippin is on camera laughing at his helpless and naked bandmate in a public parking lot. The band clearly behaved more disorderly and obnoxiously in the first few years of touring. In the later years they had cleaned up their behaviour sufficiently enough to become “ambassadors” for the children’s charity, WE Foundation. Trinh notes them as “super ambassadors” in a February 2018 article about Mr. Hoggard but leaves that information out of the November 8, 2018 article where it doesn’t mesh with her new story. The evidence available, and known to the author, makes it more likely that Mr. Crippin’s discord with the band started after the other band member’s behaviour had vastly improved.

The article states that the CBC was anonymously sent a six second video of Mr. Hoggard exposing his genitals and describes the content of the video in detail. As the source was acknowledged to have been anonymous, the CBC has the appearance of participating in the sharing of “revenge porn.” As the CBC published on April 16, 2018, an article titled “‘Revenge porn’ law will allow people to sue those who share intimate photos,” the CBC must be aware that sharing intimate photos and videos of someone without their permission is illegal in Canada. Trinh’s article has opened up a possible lawsuit that could cost taxpayers a significant amount of money. This is not only unethical, possibly a crime, it is extremely irresponsible and the story value does not justify the risk. The article bizarrely states that the CBC was sent the video by “an anonymous Hedley fan” though it is unlikely a fan of Hoggard or the band would be sending pornographic images of Hoggard to a journalist. Because the message claimed to be a “fan” of the band the video was not justified for fact checking any assault allegation. Because the video was sent anonymously, the CBC can’t even guarantee that the video wasn’t sent by Mr. Crippin himself, who admits he received a copy of it more than a year and a half earlier.

Though Mr. Crippin is responsible if his statements are libellous, the CBC admits in the article that he has motive to lie. The inclusion of Mr. Crippin’s possible motive appears to have been made only to excuse the CBC’s neglect to fact check his claims before publication. The few documents (mostly emails) obtained by the CBC amount to offensive jokes that are in poor taste and unpalatable to most Canadians but Mr. Hoggard’s comments were obviously made privately to people he likely felt understood his sense of humour. In regards to allegations of homophobia, Mr. Crippin can be seen simulating homosexual intercourse with Mr. Hoggard on the publicly available video of the band’s 2006 film and his claim to have been offended by Mr. Hoggard’s name calling, using the term “faggot” is not credible. These documents do not appear substantial enough to bolster the characterization of Mr. Hoggard as either racist or homophobic. He simply appears to have a sense of humour that most people would find offensive. Mr. Hoggard and the band have acknowledged crude and misogynistic behaviour in public statements so it is not newsworthy to repeat old claims that band members have previously behaved poorly nor is it accurate to hold Mr. Crippin at a distance from that behaviour himself.

There are many questions Trinh failed to ask Mr. Crippin relevant to his motives and claims.

Taylor Bowman, who started the hashtag #OutHedley2K18 making public allegations against the band, has stated her solidarity with Mr. Crippin in a tweet posted on the first day of her campaign against the band. Bowman wrote “God Bless @chriscrippin” while posting a series of “anonymous” third party allegations that no one could verify were not her own authorship. In fact one screenshot posted by Bowman suggests that she did write the complaint herself using a second Twitter account. Instead of questioning Crippin’s possible involvement in the Twitter campaign against the band, Trinh, interviewing Crippin in a video included within her article, allows him to give a disjointed explanation for having posted a meme of Kermit the frog sipping tea when the hashtag first began. Readers should have been advised that many people have publicly suggested that Crippin organized the Twitter campaign or, at the very least, Trinh could have asked him to respond to that public allegation. There was no attempt to create a balanced or fair article. Instead the article does the opposite of investigation, Trinh clearly tries to bolster Crippin’s credibility instead of questioning it.

The article states that Crippin had spoken with police regarding the criminal charges against Hoggard but admits that Crippin had no knowledge of the alleged incidents, he merely offered the police “character” evidence. That type of evidence, as the courts would phrase it, has no probative value and is highly prejudicial. That Mr. Crippin may have made statements about Mr. Hoggard’s character to police does not make his statements more newsworthy unless the article’s subject was Mr. Crippin’s animosity towards the band.

Trinh’s article alleges Crippin’s concern about Hoggard’s behaviour including lewd comments to his fans — addressing them as “f—ing sluts”

Since the article was published, a female Hedley fan on Twitter, using the hashtag #OutChrisCrippin posted that Mr. Crippin is the one who called her “you fucking slut” at a concert in 2007. Another woman tweeted that she sent an email to Trinh and another CBC reporter with lengthy allegations against Mr. Crippin but did not get a meaningful response. These allegations undermine Trinh’s promotion of Crippin in the article as the moral compass for his former bandmates and further undermine his credibility, including misattributing his own words and actions to Mr. Hoggard.

Trinh’s article claims Mr. Crippin wanted to leave the band, and arranged to have himself fired for his own financial purposes.

However, on November 10, 2018,  a blog called “A Voice From The Other Side” published information from a friend of  Mr. Crippin.

The article quotes, with attribution, a man who worked with the band and was also good friends with Mr. Crippin after Crippin was fired. He gave evidence that Crippin was in a rage over being fired by the band and Crippin made multiple comments about wanting the band harmed saying  “I received several phone calls from him venting in anger and a desire for vengeance”. This undermines the credibility of Crippin’s claim in the CBC article that he wanted to leave the band. The claim that Crippin didn’t want to harm the band is the closing note of the CBC article, leaving readers with the false impression that Crippin’s claims have more credibility. The article quotes Crippin saying he was “regrettably forced” to speak out against Hedley and Mr. Hoggard to distance himself from past association with the band. Trinh fails to ask Crippin whether or not industry people may be even less likely to work with him after this interview.

There is no evidence of a meaningful attempt by the CBC or Trinh to verify the cause for Crippin’s firing or his reaction to being fired. There is no indication that evidence was requested from Crippin that people were citing his connection to Hedley as a reason to avoid working with him.

In regards to a the six second pornographic video of Mr. Hoggard described in the CBC article, there is no indication that the CBC tried to verify the source or the date of the video they received “anonymously”. There is no questioning of Crippin as to whether or not he was the one who sent the pornographic video to CBC and states Crippin claimed he received the video “just before [he] left the band.” In publishing the statement from the Ottawa complainant, claiming that she had received the same video, the article does not remind the reader that the CBC couldn’t verify the messages. Indeed, though Trinh has previously noted that Snapchat messages disappear after they are received, the article claims “CBC has confirmed” that the woman received the video on Snapchat.

Trinh also fails to point out that Crippin left the band in March 2017, around four months after the Ottawa woman allegedly received the video in November 2016. The lack of information or questioning as to how two seemingly unconnected people ended up with the same six second video, also mysteriously sent to the CBC almost 2 years later in September 2018, shows a stunning lack of curiosity from the CBC regarding their own sources. That Trinh claims two of their sources say they have seen the exact same video sent “anonymously” to CBC implies to the reader that Trinh is indiscreetly showing a private, pornographic video of Mr. Hoggard to random sources asking if they’ve seen it before. This does not instill confidence in the integrity of CBC’s reporting in this article or, by extension, all other CBC reporting. Sharing possible “revenge porn” with multiple sources may actually increase the risk of a successful lawsuit against the CBC. Questions arise as to whether or not Trinh has now shown or distributed the private video to more people than Hoggard ever originally sent it to.

As a sum of all these issues, Judy Trinh’s article of November 8, 2018 is disgraceful to the reputation of the CBC and should outrage the public who funded it. The message this article sends to the citizens of Canada is that any one of us could become the subject of libel and defamation, funded with our own taxes, and smeared by the national public broadcaster with a reckless disregard for the truth. The CBC should immediately retract this article and issue an unreserved apology to Mr. Hoggard and the other members of the band Hedley. The public is also owed an apology and a guarantee that the CBC will employ better standards in future journalism.

At a time when many people’s lives have been quickly destroyed by sexual assault allegations without access to due process, it is of utmost importance that journalists properly and thoroughly assess the credibility of their sources. Most people give added weight to allegations published by journalists, especially when published and backed by the CBC, our publicly funded news organization. There is a public interest in knowing when police have made an arrest and in following the progress of criminal investigations. There is a public interest in addressing the challenges faced by victims of sexual assault. There is no public interest in reading misinformation or lies presented as news. The public needs to have faith in the integrity of journalists who work for the CBC and on that count, the CBC has failed.

Diana Davison
Co-Founder, The Lighthouse Project