Ghomeshi hosting a live taping of his radio show Q in Vancouver, March 26, 2009
|Also known as||Jean Ghomeshi|
June 9, 1967 |
London, United Kingdom
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Associated acts||Moxy Früvous, Lights|
Jian Ghomeshi (born June 9, 1967) is a Canadian musician, writer, and former CBC radio broadcaster. From 1990 to 2000 he was a member of the Thornhill-based folk-pop band Moxy Früvous, as a vocalist and drummer. In the 2000s he became a television and radio broadcaster. He has hosted, among others, the CBC Newsworld TV show >play (2002-2005), the CBC Radio One radio show The National Playlist (2005-2006), and the CBC Radio One show Q, which he co-created and hosted from 2007 to 2014 until fired by the CBC. Q, which features interviews with prominent cultural and entertainment figures, became the highest rated show in its timeslot in CBC history.
Ghomeshi is awaiting trial on a total of seven counts of sexual assault, and one count of overcoming resistance by choking, against a total of six women, and faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison. In late 2014, he was arrested and charged with four counts of sexual assault, and one count of choking, in relation to three complainants. He was charged with three additional counts related to three more women on January 8, 2015. Ghomeshi's lawyer has stated that he will be pleading not guilty to all the charges.
Ghomeshi was born on June 9, 1967 in London, England to Iranian parents Farhang (Frank), a civil engineer, and Azar (Sara) Ghomeshi. According to Ghomeshi, he grew up in a Muslim household but elsewhere noted that his family was secularist and even celebrated Christmas and Easter. His family moved to Canada when Ghomeshi was seven and lived in Thornhill, Ontario. He attended Thornlea Secondary School, where he was student council president. His older sister is a professor of linguistics.
Ghomeshi has written that, during his teenage years, he ensured that his clothes smelled of cigarette smoke to give him "social credibility" even though he was a non-smoker, dressed "new wave" and listened to music from David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Rush.
Ghomeshi attended York University beginning in 1985 in the theatre program and subsequently graduated with a B.A. in political science and a double minor in history and women's studies. In 1989 Ghomeshi unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the student government at York. In 1990 he was elected president of the Council of the York Federation of Students with a record-breaking number of votes and subsequently renamed the federation the York Federation of Students. As president, Ghomeshi promised increased funding for the Women's Centre, supported increased safety measures for women on campus and co-founded a pro-choice network.
Ghomeshi joined Mike Ford, Murray Foster, and Dave Matheson to form the politically satirical folk-pop band Moxy Früvous in 1989 and together they recorded eight albums before going on permanent hiatus in 2001. Ghomeshi sang and played drums. He was credited as "Jean" rather than Jian on the band's first album but reverted to the original spelling of his name for subsequent albums. Moxy Früvous sold over 50,000 copies of their debut independent EP in 1992 (gold in Canada). Their debut album Bargainville went platinum in Canada in 1994 after selling over 100,000 copies. Over the course of eight albums, they sold over 500,000 albums in Canada and the United States. Ghomeshi released his first solo EP, The First 6 Songs, in July 2001.
A 1996 video tape, revealed in 2014, suggested that Ghomeshi disdained his audiences, stating on camera that people paying to see the band's shows were "losers" and "fucking idiots." David Yuhnke, who was present at the recording, suspected that Ghomeshi was joking, recalling that the room's atmosphere was "sarcasm-laded," but added that he found it "hard to gauge entirely if he [Ghomeshi] was being serious or not."
Ghomeshi's production company, Jian Ghomeshi Productions Inc., managed musician Martina Sorbara (now of the band Dragonette) and produced music for Dar Williams. He managed electropop artist Lights from 2007 until 2014, during which time she won the Juno Award for Best New Artist and was nominated for several more. Lights initially supported Ghomeshi after he was accused of sexual abuse in 2014, but later dropped him as her manager, saying: "I rushed to defend my manager of 12 years. I am now aware that my comments appear insensitive to those impacted and for that I am deeply sorry".
Radio and television
In 2002, Ghomeshi became host of CBC Newsworld's >play, a show about the arts in Canada and abroad. >play ran for three seasons. He also did the weekly entertainment report on the Toronto edition of Canada Now.
In 2006, he finished a documentary series entitled The End, which described technology's effects on television, radio, and print as well as the future of the media. He hosted the radio series 50 Tracks and 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version on CBC Radio One and CBC Radio 2. From fall 2005 until spring 2006, he hosted a program on Radio One called The National Playlist.
From April 16, 2007 to October 26, 2014, when he was fired following allegations of sexual abuse, Ghomeshi was the host of Q, a program airing twice daily on CBC Radio One, and on over 170 stations in the United States over Public Radio International. During his time as host of Q Ghomeshi regularly booked guests who shared his agent and lawyer without disclosing this connection. In July 2014 the CBC accepted $5,000 from Warner Music to send Ghomeshi to Malibu, California to interview Tom Petty, in violation of CBC policies. The CBC vowed to repay the money after the incident was uncovered by The Toronto Star.
Ghomeshi hosted the 2009 Dora Mavor Moore Awards ceremony. He was set to host the November 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize awards gala but was replaced in October by comedian Rick Mercer. In November 2014, he was replaced as the host of the CBC competition Canada Reads by Wab Kinew, the previous year's winner.
In December 2014 the CBC announced that it would not be rebroadcasting Ghomeshi's interviews and it would be removing them from the CBC's online archive. Reactions to this decision were swift and varied and, after further deliberations by CBC management, the decision was reversed.
Billy Bob Thornton interview
On April 8, 2009, actor and musician Billy Bob Thornton appeared with his band, The Boxmasters, on Q, with Ghomeshi hosting. In introducing Thornton, Ghomeshi mentioned Thornton's acting career and added, "he's always intended to make music, he just got sidetracked." In responding to Ghomeshi's subsequent interview questions, Thornton acted confused and gave vague, evasive answers. When asked about his musical tastes and influences as a child, Thornton answered with a rambling commentary about his favourite childhood magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland. Later in the interview, Thornton said that the reason for his uncooperative answers was that Ghomeshi had been "instructed not to discuss" his film career but had done so.
Thornton said that Canadians did not get up and move or throw things at concerts, and referred to them as "mashed potatoes without the gravy." Ghomeshi replied, "Oh, we've got some gravy up here as well." Ghomeshi described the interview as one of the most difficult he has conducted. He compared the international media exposure that followed the interview to being "in the middle of a tsunami."
Ghomeshi's literary debut, 1982, is a creative non-fiction title, about that year of his youth. It was released on September 18, 2012. It is a memoir of Ghomeshi's life at the age of 14 (during 1982) growing up as an Iranian-Canadian in Thornhill, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto), his attempt to fit in as one of the few non-white kids in his neighbourhood, and his goal of mimicking his idol David Bowie.
1982 received a mixed reception from critics. Zoe Whittall called it a "funny, nostalgic and compelling read, especially for music nerds of a certain age," while Stephen Carlick criticized the book, saying that Ghomeshi's attempt to appeal to the varied audience that listens to his CBC Radio program Q made it "uneven and often tedious" to read, making the reader question who the book was for after the prologue, which Carlick referred to as "1982 for Dummies". Carlick also noted that "... Ghomeshi is a nice guy...[,] inoffensive and genial", but the book, by "...trying to appeal to everyone", is spread "too thin."
Criminal charges and lawsuit
In 2010, Q producer Kathryn Borel Jr. approached her union, the Canadian Media Guild, alleging that Ghomeshi had repeatedly sexually harassed her starting in 2007. She also alleges that there was "...emotional abuse, too: gaslighting and psychological games that undermined [her] intelligence, security and sense of self. Sometimes that hit harder than the physical trespassing." Borel declined to start a union arbitration or formal grievance but met with the executive producer of the show informally. Borel alleges that her union representative and the producer "did nothing." When Borel's allegations became public in 2014, CMG national president Carmel Smyth described Borel's experience as unacceptable and stated that sexual harassment is now a priority for the union.
In 2013 journalist Carla Ciccone published an account of her date with a Canadian radio host to XoJane titled "I Accidentally Went on a Date With a Presumed-Gay Canadian C-List Celebrity Who Creepily Proved He Isn’t Gay." Ciccone refers to the personality under a pseudonym but Toronto Life identified the individual as Ghomeshi. The article describes the radio host as making unwanted physical advances. Ghomeshi did not deny going on a date with Ciccone and claimed not to have read the article, but stated that much of it was untrue from what he had heard. Following the publication of the article Ciccone received hundreds of abusive messages and threats from Ghomeshi's supporters.
On a few occasions, a Twitter account named for Ghomeshi's teddy bear, Big Ears Teddy, made accusations of abuse against him including an April 9, 2014 tweet signed “every female Carleton U media grad."
In the spring of 2014, Ghomeshi advised his employers at the CBC that the Toronto Star was looking into allegations by an ex-girlfriend that he had engaged in non-consensual rough sex. Ghomeshi denied this accusation. The crisis management firm Navigator was hired to work for both Ghomeshi and the CBC.
In early summer, reporter Jesse Brown contacted the CBC and alleged that Ghomeshi's behaviour may have crossed into his work environment. The CBC investigated and concluded that there were no workplace complaints against Ghomeshi. According to an investigation by the CBC's The Fifth Estate, "almost all known staffers on... Q said they were not contacted by CBC management as part of any investigation." Ghomeshi denied the accusations again and the Toronto Star declined to go forward with the story.
In October, Brown tweeted that he was working on a story that would be "worse than embarrassing for certain parties". Brown later said that he was referring to another story but Ghomeshi requested a meeting with CBC on October 23. On October 23, the CBC viewed what it later described as "graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman". According to Vice, Ghomeshi showed his bosses lewd text messages on a CBC-owned phone and graphic personal sex videos.
On October 24, Ghomeshi announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the network to deal with personal matters. Two days later, the CBC terminated Ghomeshi's employment, with a CBC spokesperson saying "information came to our attention recently that in CBC's judgment precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian." Ghomeshi subsequently released a "lengthy Facebook post"  saying his dismissal was motivated by fear of an alleged smear campaign by an ex-girlfriend that according to Ghomeshi could release private details about his sexual life. Ghomeshi said he refused an offer by the CBC to "walk away quietly." Chris Boyce, the head of CBC Radio, denied that such an offer was made.
Ghomeshi filed a $55 million lawsuit against the CBC, alleging that the broadcaster misused "personal and confidential information provided to it in confidence". He also filed "a union grievance alleging wrongful dismissal and defamation," and stated through his lawyer that he "does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory." CBC asked the court to dismiss the suit, saying it was "without merit and an abuse of the court’s process". Ghomeshi withdrew his lawsuit on November 25, 2014. The terms of settlement stipulate that Ghomeshi will pay the CBC $18,000 in legal costs.
Following his firing, the Toronto Star published allegations by three women who said that they experienced violence from Ghomeshi without consent, as well as allegations by a former CBC colleague, who later revealed her identity as Kathryn Borel, who said that Ghomeshi had sexually harassed her in the workplace. According to the Toronto Star, the women wished to remain anonymous due to the threats that Ciccone had received. A fifth woman gave an interview to CBC Radio's As It Happens on October 29, 2014, also alleging that Ghomeshi physically abused her on their first date. By December 16, 15 women and one man had approached media outlets with abuse allegations against Ghomeshi. Actress Lucy DeCoutere was the first woman to agree to the publication of her name in conjunction with the allegations, followed by author and lawyer Reva Seth. Jim Hounslow later came forward publicly alleging that Ghomeshi sexually assaulted him while the two were students at York University in the early 1990s.
On November 26, Ghomeshi turned himself in to Toronto Police and was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking, after an investigation that began on October 31. The charges concern three separate women. He appeared in court on the same day and was released on $100,000 bail on the conditions that he surrender his passport, stay within Ontario and live with his mother. Ghomeshi appeared in court again on January 8, 2015 and was charged with three additional counts of sexual assault related to three more women. Ghomeshi's next court date is February 26, 2015, when a judge is expected to set a date for a preliminary trial. His lawyer has said he will plead not guilty to all charges.
Carleton University and the CBC have each launched private investigations of their own. The CBC investigation is being led by Janice Rubin, a prominent lawyer and leading authority on workplace harassment.
On January 5, 2015 the CBC placed Boyce and Todd Spencer, the executive director of human resources and industrial relations for English services, on indefinite leave of absence related to the Ghomeshi scandal.
Ghomeshi was diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder in approximately 2009 [b 1] after suffering a panic attack. He began seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis. According to Ghomeshi he purchased a teddy bear to replace his childhood toy, at the urging of his therapist, to help him deal with his anxiety.
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- Date based on 2014 Toronto Life article which says it occurred "roughly five years ago."