Brazeau apologizes for insulting reporter on Twitter
Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau takes part in a weigh-in for a upcoming boxing match against Liberal MP Justin Trudeau Wednesday March 28, 2012, in Ottawa. (Fred Chartrand/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, June 26, 2012 2:49PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 26, 2012 6:54PM EDT
Senator Patrick Brazeau apologized Tuesday evening for telling a reporter over Twitter that she should change her name to “Bitchburn,” after she reported that he had the lowest attendance record in the Red Chamber between June 2011 and April 2012.
Canadian Press reporter Jen Ditchburn looked at records in the Senate attendance register, and noted that Brazeau was absent for 25 per cent of the 72 sittings during that period, leaving him four days away from being fined.
Senators can miss up to 21 days in each parliamentary session without providing an explanation. After that, each day’s absence can cost them $250, Ditchburn reported.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a message appeared on Brazeau’s Twitter account, @TheBrazman, saying: “@jenditchburn while u smile Jen, others suffer. Change the D to a B in your last name and we’re even! Don’t mean it but needs saying.”
Ditchburn wasted no time in replying: “@TheBrazman Dear Senator: Many a person has made fun of my name and (t)he word “Bitch”. But never a Canadian senator. That’s a first.”
After the pair exchanged a handful of tweets over the course of an hour, Brazeau tweeted an apology.
“@jenditchburn I apologize for my comments. They were done because of my personal circumstance regarding your story. (1/2)
“@jenditchburn (2/2) I'm a hardworker and take my position seriously but personal issues always comes 1st. Ppl are sometimes in need. Sorry!”
After Brazeau’s initial insult, the Twittersphere exploded with outrage by reporters and pundits both in and outside Ottawa.
CTV News Channel’s Mercedes Stephenson tweeted: “The Senate is the Chamber of Sober Second Thought... maybe sober second thoughts before one tweets would be a place to start.”
Alyson Court tweeted: “Um, dear #cdnpoli followers, a Canadian SENATOR just called a very respectable journalist a b---- on twitter.”
More than one reporter tweeted a simple, “wow,” or “sad,” while Maclean’s reporter Aaron Wherry offered a solution to the entire attendance issue.
“You know what would solve this Senate attendance problem? Abolishing the Senate,” Wherry tweeted.
Ditchburn asked Brazeau for comment prior to the publication of her story. He replied by email, saying that, “The very simple answer to your question with respect to my attendance or lack thereof is for personal matters.”
Brazeau did not elaborate on the meaning of personal matters.
NDP MP Charlie Angus called Brazeau the "latest poster boy" for a democratically challenged institution.
"It's surprising that he shows up at all," said Angus. "He's got a gig for life. There's no accountability, there's no censure, he's going to sit there until he's 75."
Ditchburn’s story also reported that Brazeau missed 65 per cent of meetings of the aboriginal peoples committee on which he sits. He also missed 31 per cent of the meetings of the human rights committee, on which he serves as deputy chair.
Brazeau made headlines earlier this year when he lost to Liberal MP Justin Trudeau in a charity boxing match. While he is shorter in stature than Trudeau, he was the favourite heading into the match for his muscular build and his black belt in karate.
Ditchburn’s story reported that other senators high on the absentee list were Liberal Romeo Dallaire, who missed 22 per cent of Senate sittings, and Conservative Janis Johnson, who was away for 19 per cent of sittings.
Dallaire said his absences were due to speaking engagements and three-and-a-half weeks spent in parts of Africa for his research on child soldiers.
Johnson said while she has had a good attendance record, she is currently taking care of a terminally ill aunt. She was also ill during the winter.
A number of senators had perfect attendance during the period examined, including Conservatives Con Di Nino and Jacques Demers and Liberals Jim Munson and Percy Downe.
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