Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant issued a rare on-air apology Monday, saying he hoped his comments about the Roma “will serve as an example of what not to do when commenting on social issues.”
The television host sparked widespread criticism late last year when he went on a tirade against the Roma, after news reports surfaced about a crime ring operating in the Greater Toronto Area that focused on the ethnicity of those accused.
He said the Roma – who originate from Europe but have been in Canada for decades – are “a culture synonymous with swindlers … one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging.”
In a statement after the show aired, the executive director of the Roma Community Centre described the television segment as “nearly nine minutes of on-air racist hate-speech targeting our community.”
Mr. Levant said Monday in a voluntary apology during his television show that he was wrong to equate the actions of some individuals with an entire ethnic group. His original broadcast used the outdated term “gypsies” frequently, causing some in Canada’s Roma community to ask police to investigate him for hate crimes.
“There were some criticisms afterwards, but I dismissed them as coming from the usual soft-on-crime liberals and grievance groups,” he said. “But when I look at some of the words I used last summer – like ‘the gypsies have gypped us’ – I must admit that I did more than just attack a crime or immigration fraud problem. I attacked a particular group, and painted them all with the same brush. And to those I hurt, I’m sorry.”
Sun News, which is losing $17-million a year as it tries to gain a foothold on Canadian televisions, is asking Canada’s broadcast regulator to place the channel on basic cable packages across the country to help it win over viewers on a crowded dial.
The channel – and Mr. Levant in particular – has drawn the attention of ethics regulators since it launched. In one incident, Mr. Levant was forced to apologize on air for telling a Spanish banana executive, in Spanish, to have sex with his own mother.
The channel’s executives must convince regulators next month that it’s a service that contributes positively and uniquely to Canadian culture if it hopes to win its request for mandatory carriage.