Fox News host apologizes in face of Canadian outrage
Published Monday, March 23, 2009 7:42PM EDT
The host of a Fox News program has apologized for a segment on the Canadian military that Defence Minister Peter MacKay called "disgusting" and "crass."
A group of pundits on "Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld," which airs weekdays at 3 a.m. on Fox News, each took turns trashing Canada and its military during an episode that aired on March 17.
Gutfeld mocked Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, chief of land staff, who suggested in early March that the military may need a year-long break in operations due to personnel and equipment shortages.
"Once their Afghan mission winds down sometime in 2011, certain members of the Canadian military are looking to take a much-deserved break. And by certain members I mean all of them," Gutfeld said.
"Meaning, the Canadian military wants to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white Capri pants."
Gutfeld issued an apology Monday afternoon saying, "I realize that my words may have been misunderstood. It was not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military, and for that I apologize."
But the host also seemed to defend his program, adding "Red Eye is a satirical take on the news, in which all topics are addressed in a lighthearted, humorous and ridiculous manner."
In the four-minute segment, Gutfeld asked the other three members of his panel: "Isn't this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country? They have no army!"
Panelist Doug Benson, a comedian, replied: "I didn't even know they were in the war. I thought that's where you go when you don't want to fight. Go chill in Canada."
Benson was due to perform at an Edmonton comedy club in April, but that gig has been cancelled after threats were received about his performance.
MacKay expresses anger
In an interview with CTV Newsnet earlier on Monday, MacKay expressed his anger over the comments and demanded an apology.
"It's crass, it's insensitive, it's in fact disgusting given the timing where Canada is just receiving back four fallen heroes here at CFB Trenton," MacKay said.
On Friday, Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28, Cpl. Tyler Crooks, 24, Trooper Jack Bouthillier, 20, and Trooper Corey Joseph Hayes, 22, were killed in two separate IED blasts that injured another five soldiers.
The deaths bring the total number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 116.
MacKay said the Canadian government will be demanding an apology from the panel and from Fox.
"There should be an apology -- to the families in particular, and to the Canadian Forces and to Canada generally -- given the sacrifice and the commitment that we've demonstrated in Afghanistan."
Earlier Monday, Conservative strategist Geoff Norquay said the comments on the show were insulting to Canadian soldiers and show that the host was ignorant of the fact that Canadian troops have been working hard in Afghanistan.
"What could anybody with common sense say about his kind of trash? It's ignorant, it's inappropriate, it's insulting," Norquay said during an interview on Canada AM. "It's insulting to the 116 Canadian troops who have given their lives and paid the supreme sacrifice while we've been in Afghanistan."
While the controversial comments were made nearly a week ago, they have only come to light in Canada in recent days.
An outraged Canadian posted the clip from the show to YouTube with a comment that says, "Fox News belittles and mocks the Canadian military." It goes on to say: "These are the people who keep Americans up to date and mis-informed."
Norquay said he hopes Canadians who subscribe to Fox News will cancel those subscriptions and that Canadian advertisers will cancel their business with the network.