The CBC says it “regrets” an article blasting Conservative MP Rachael Harder for sharing “misinformation” after she posted a Toronto Sun column about COVID-19 deaths in Alberta on social media.
Harder shared the Toronto Sun commentary on her public Facebook page in November 2020. The article discussed the number of COVID-19 deaths in Alberta relative to patients who had pre-existing health conditions.
“Ten. That’s the number of otherwise healthy people who have died from COVID-19 in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic,” reads the lead sentence of the Sun article published on Nov. 17, 2020.
Harder did not include any of her own comments when sharing the post on Facebook.
The CBC News article, published on Nov. 25 last year with the original title of “Lethbridge MP under fire for spreading ‘misinformation’ about COVID deaths in Alberta,” CBC reporter Bryan Labby said that by sharing the column, Harder had “triggered angry responses from people who say she is showing a lack of compassion and empathy for all who have died of the disease.”
Harder complained to CBC Ombudsman Jack Nagler, contending that the article violated the public broadcaster’s own Journalistic Standards and Practices and was “bent, inaccurate, and sensationalized.”
In response to Harder’s complaint, Nagler said in a statement that when dealing with stories based on outrage over social media posts, “it can be difficult to assess whether angry tweets reflect a larger consensus, and sometimes it can be difficult to know whether the social media outrage is even authentic.”
“There were violations of policy and I hope fervently that programmers will learn from their mistakes here,” he said, noting that the article overall was “flawed.”
Nagler also acknowledged that the statistics in the Sun article were accurate.
Despite Harder’s demand for a formal and public apology, the news agency did not offer her one, although Nagler said CBC Calgary senior director Helen Henderson had agreed that Labby’s article “failed to live up to CBC’s journalistic standards.”
“This piece fell short of what we deem acceptable,” Henderson said, according to Nagler’s statement.
“Let me reiterate that I regret we did not live up to our, and our audience’s, expectations of CBC News.”
CBC Calgary has since updated the article to reflect Harder’s views and to contextualize some of the reactions to her Facebook post, including a change to the article’s headline which now reads “Lethbridge MP under fire for sharing article on COVID deaths, comorbidities and restrictions.”
On Sept. 22, Harder posted on her Facebook page a Toronto Sun article about the controversy titled, “CBC Calgary regrets ‘manufactured’ article slamming Alberta MP.”
Harder was re-elected in the 2021 federal election in her riding of Lethbridge, Alberta, for the third term with 55.7 percent of votes.