“Well, hi there.”
That’s how Jian Ghomeshi, in a scratchy baritone, started his radio shows. In its seven-year run on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Ghomeshi’s show, called “Q,” became one of Canada’s most popular. It found a home at 160 American radio stations, hauled in hundreds of thousands of listeners and stitched together an incongruous assemblage of senior citizens, indie-obsessed kids and the politically progressive. Known for conducting spell-binding interviews, Ghomeshi was described as the “cool guy” at an otherwise stodgy network .
But rumors and whispers about his private life have followed the host for a long time. On Sunday, they finally caught up to him. The startling revelations came one after the other: In the morning, CBC announced it had fired him under unexplained circumstances. Then Ghomeshi announced he was planning to sue. Then he unleashed a bizarre and rambling confession on Facebook, in which he laid bare what he characterized as “strange” sexual habits that included “rough sex” and “forms” of bondage and role-playing.
And then, late Sunday night, the bomb dropped in a Toronto Star investigation that said three unnamed women had accused him of “attacking” them without consent.
It was a calamitous turn in the life of the 46-year-old who came to represent a company’s attempt to rebrand itself as youth-focused and hip. “At the youth-starved CBC, he has become the go-to cool guy,” wrote Courtney Shea in Toronto Life. “His bosses put him in front of a mike or camera whenever possible. … For a guy who has always felt like an outsider, he has managed to quite deftly to plant himself in the center of everything.”
But now, suddenly, he’s on the outside. The CBC broke the news of his termination Sunday morning, and spokesman Chuck Thompson elaborated on it in an interview with the Globe and Mail. “Information came to our attention recently that in CBC’s judgement precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian. … Whenever a decision is made to end a relationship with an employee, terms of separation are never disclosed.”
Ghomeshi had no such qualms. He immediately started firing back, instructed his attorneys to file a $50 million lawsuit against the CBC that “will claim general and punitive damages for among other things, breach of confidence and bad faith.” Then he dropped an epic, 1,600-word manifesto on his Facebook page that got into the nitty-gritty.
He wrote that he was fired because “of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer. About two years ago, I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex. … We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey.”
He said he broke things off with the woman at the beginning of this year, which brought about a “campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization against me that would lead to months of anxiety.” She began calling the women he had dated, he claimed, and cast their relationship as something inappropriate. The rumors eventually filtered to a freelance writer, he said, who picked them up and began investigating.
The fruits of that investigation dropped Sunday night in the Toronto Star report that drew from “lengthy” interviews with three women who alleged Ghomeshi had “physically attacked them.” The report alleges Ghomeshi had “struck” the women, “bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.”
This report is exactly what Ghomeshi said he feared, calling it all a “lie.”
To prove it, he said, he voluntarily showed CBC “evidence that everything I have done has been consensual. … This [was] when the CBC decided to fire me.” The CBC, he claimed, agreed the sex was consensual, but still felt it was unbecoming of someone of such prominence.
Many facts of the saga remain unclear. The nature of the evidence Ghomeshi showed CBC is not known. Nor are the identities of his accusers. And it’s not certain whether Ghomeshi’s public confession — presumably an attempt to get out in front of a story likely to be damning — will affect his prospective litigation.
No matter the resolution, it will surely derail a rise nothing short of meteoric. Born in London in 1967 to Iranian parents, he grew up in time for the Iranian hostage crisis. He endured taunts of “blackie” and questions of where he kept his machine gun, Toronto Life reported. “I didn’t take offense to being called Blackie,” he later wrote in the Globe and Mail. “It didn’t bother me as a little kid, because I didn’t recognize any of the broader societal implications or any sort of a power dynamic.”
After he relocated to Toronto, his passion for music was supplanted by one for social criticism, for which he had a keen and insightful eye. After a music tour through the United States in 2001 as the Afghanistan war was beginning, he wrote a widely-read dispatch called, “A dove in the land of the eagle.” “Never make the mistake of assuming Americans to be a homogeneous group with one opinion,” he wrote. “It’s a stereotype we tend to perpetuate in Canada, if not the rest of the world.”
The piece won him a slot as a CBC broadcaster, which he parlayed into larger and larger roles.
If there’s a date, however, that marked the beginning of the end of Ghomeshi’s CBC career, it is June 10, 2013. On that day, XOJane published an article entitled, “I accidentally went on a date with a presumed-gay Canadian C-List celebrity who creepily proved he isn’t gay.” Though the piece never identified Ghomeshi, it was said to describe him, and he admitted as much to Toronto Life.
But if true, Ghomeshi said that tryst, along with the others, aren’t any of the public’s business. “Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks,” he wrote on Facebook. “They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. But that is my private life. … And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life.”