Rebel Media, one of the few conservative news alternatives in Canada, is under attack for its coverage of the Charlottesville riot.
One of the leadership candidates for Alberta’s new United Conservative Party says the news service defended the white supremacists at the weekend clash.
Doug Schweitzer, a Calgary lawyer who is running third in the leadership contest behind Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, tweeted Monday that he had “just watched the @TheRebelTV feed from #Charlotteville. Absolutely wrong. @jkenney @BrianJeanAB – you can’t give them a pass!”
He later tweeted that The Rebel was “defending Nazis.”
Schweitzer based this accusation on Rebel correspondent Faith Goldy’s on-scene reporting. Goldy criticized the decision to allow a counter-protest at the white supremacist gathering. Goldy was also live-streaming when when a car drove into the crowd left-wing protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others.
“We heard the Rebel Media providing coverage on it and right before the individual was hit by that car and died, they were offering soft support to some white supremacist groups that were out there,” Schweitzer told CBC News on Monday, adding that the news service had become a vehicle for the alt-right.
“It has no place in United Conservative Party, we cannot be playing footsie with this and enough is enough,” he said. “Conservative politicians should no longer be participating in a platform that allows for the facilitation of hate.”
That prompted The Rebel’s founder, Ezra Levant, to disavow the alt-right, writing in an internal memo Monday that was sent to The Daily Caller and shared with his supporters: “When I first heard of the alt-right a year ago, I thought it simply meant the insurgent right..It was unashamed right-wingedness, with a sense of humour.”
Levant, a noted free-speech advocate who has supported several conservative media ventures over the years, said that was no longer the case. “But the alt-right has changed into something new…people whose central organizing political principle is race.”
Levant, who is Jewish, also objected to being linked with neo-Nazis.
The memo did not satisfy Rebel co-founder and commentator Brian Lilley, who quit the internet-based network.
“There are ways to disagree on policy without resorting to us versus them rhetoric,” Lilley wrote on his Facebook page. “What The Rebel suffers from is a lack of editorial and behavioural judgment that left unchecked will destroy it and those around it. For that reason, I am leaving.”
Although Schweitzer dared fellow leadership candidates Kenney and Jean to condemn The Rebel’s coverage — neither would directly criticize Levant’s organization, opting instead to emphasize their opposition to white supremacist movements.
“White supremacists have no place in our society. I echo my colleague @doug_schweitzer in condemning what is happening in Charlottesville,” Jean tweeted.
Kenney’s campaign responded in a statement: “Jason has been building bridges between Canadian communities of all races, ethnicities and religions for over a decade,” Kenney spokesperson Blaise Boehmer said.