Kevin O’Leary of CBC’s Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank cultivates the persona of a ruthless truth-teller.
But he came across as a shallow blowhard during an interview on his Lange & O’Leary Exchange show with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges in New York about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Hedges, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and prolific author on social issues, sympathizes with the protesters camped on Wall Street. But he might have been forgiven for thinking an interview on Canada’s public TV network would be a little more high-toned.
Instead, O’Leary tore into Hedges, whom he misidentified as a protest organizer, and denigrated the protesters with oft-repeated criticism that they’re unfocused and leaderless.
“They want to reverse the corporate coup that’s taken place in the United States, that’s rendered the citizenry impotent,” Hedges replied.
“You sound like a left-wing nutbar,” O’Leary said.
“I don’t usually appear on shows who descend to character assassination,” said Hedges, clearly surprised by the personal attack but refusing to be baited. “You sound like Fox News.”
He went on to praise the ideas of Canadian thinkers such as John Ralston Saul, and the prudent banking system that helped Canada avoid the 2008 financial crisis that’s one of the motivating forces behind the Wall Street protest.
The “interview” ended civilly and O’Leary’s co-host thanked Hedges “for joining us.”
“It’ll be the last last time,” the former war correspondent replied.
O’Leary’s ‘nutbar’ remark breach of policy, CBC ombudsman says
Toronto— The Canadian Press
Friday, Oct. 14, 2011
CBC’s ombudsman says Kevin O’Leary’s heated remarks during an interview with author Chris Hedges violated the public broadcaster’s journalistic standards.
The watchdog says hundreds of complaints were filed after Mr. O’Leary called the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist “a nutbar” during CBC News Network’sThe Lang & O’Leary Exchange on Oct. 6. The remark came during a seven-minute segment about the Occupy Wall Street protests unfolding in the United States.
“There is room at the inn for a range of views, but there is no room for name-calling a guest,” CBC ombudsman Kirk LaPointe writes in a decision dated Oct. 13.
“O’Leary might have been genuinely curious about Hedges’s views, but his opening salvo only fed contempt, which breached policy.”
Mr. LaPointe says CBC News correctly issued a private apology to Mr. Hedges after the interview but should also have apologized on air.
A CBC spokesman was not immediately available Friday to say whether that recommendation would be implemented.
Mr. O’Leary is best known as an outspoken judge on CBC’s Dragons’ Den.
His Oct. 6 interview with Mr. Hedges devolved into an argument after he referred to demonstrators as “nothing burgers,” called the protests “very weak, very low-budget” and said Mr. Hedges sounded like a “left-wing nutbar.”
Mr. Hedges responded by saying he doesn’t usually go on shows where people “descend to character assassination.”
“If you want to discuss issues, that’s fine. I mean, this sounds like Fox News and I don’t go on Fox News,” he said.
Mr. LaPointe says e-mailed complaints began to arrive that evening and continued for several days, while video of the exchange was posted widely online.
“This Office and CBC News received hundreds of comments, many of them demanding an apology and some demanding that O’Leary be fired for suggesting Hedges was a ‘left-wing nutbar,’” he writes.
It’s not the first complaint over Mr. O’Leary regarding an outburst on the news talk show. The National Union of Public and General Employees says it filed a complaint Friday over comments Mr. O’Leary made Sept. 19, when he said that if he were elected prime minister, he would “make unions illegal” and union members should be “thrown in jail.”
The O’Leary controversy came in the wake of widespread outcry over CBC hockey commentator Don Cherry’s rant against former NHL enforcers.