Toronto Station Sues Over Claim Call-in Show Was Fixed

An angry Ontario voter was slapped with a $C1.05 million ($903,000) libel suit last week after he said a tv station was screening viewers’ calls to a phone-in session with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Picton resident Kenn Hineman admits he’s no fan of Mulroney. In fact, the question he had on his mind was along the lines of “Will you resign because your goods and services tax is so unpopular?”

Hineman says he was upset when he was cut off after asking the question.

So upset, in fact, he aired his grievance to his local newspaper, the Kingston Whig-Standard, claiming CFTO-TV was unfairly screening calls to avoid embarrassing Mulroney.

The Baton Broadcasting affiliate demanded an apology from both Hineman and the Whig-Standard. The newspaper, which had not sought a response from CFTO-TV to Hineman’s claim, printed a retraction. But Hineman remains unrepentant.

“I wouldn’t [apologize] even if I had to go to hell for it. I never say anything unless I know it to be fair comment,” Hineman says.

Hineman was the last of 21 callers to speak to the prime minister on the show. He says he was told by the operator he would not be put through until he told them what he would say to Mulroney. After asking his question, he was cut off.

CFTO’s lawyer Richard Storrey calls Hineman’s rigging claim “preposterous.” He says the lawsuit is CFTO’s defense against an attack on the professional integrity of its staff.

Hineman defends his right to free speech, and says the amount CFTO is seeking is ridiculous. “I’m on a disability pension, which is non-assignable. I don’t own a house. I own nothing.”

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