Fired Over a Cracker? July 30, 2009

Fired Over a Cracker?

A few weeks ago, the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal reported that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had pocketed a communion wafer he was offered at a funeral.

Video of the incident is below:

The video shows him taking the wafer but it doesn’t show what he does with it.

Rob Linke and Adam Huras reported the story for the paper and their article began like this:

A senior New Brunswick Roman Catholic priest is demanding the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the sacramental communion wafer Stephen Harper was given at Roméo LeBlanc’s funeral mass.

During communion at the solemn and dignified service held last Friday in Memramcook for the former governor general, the prime minister slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call “the host” into his jacket pocket.

There are two updates to that story now:

First, the newspaper apologized to Harper, Linke, Huras, and its readers. Why?

The story stated that a senior Roman Catholic priest in New Brunswick had demanded that the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to Prime Minister Harper during the celebration of communion at the funeral mass. The story also said that during the communion celebration, the Prime Minister “slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call ‘the host’ into his jacket pocket”.

There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now. Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them.

The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused. We also apologize to reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras and to our readers for our failure to meet our own standards of responsible journalism and accuracy in reporting.

Second, because of the mistake, editor Shawna Richer and publisher Jamie Irving are no longer employed.

Harper was angry because he insists he ate the wafer.

I’m all for accurate journalism, and it was wrong of the editor and publisher to print what they did without verifying it.

But more egregious mistakes have been made in newspapers without this type of fallout. Is a cracker really to blame for all of this?

Skimming through the comments, politics plays a big role here as well and I’m not familiar with the names and parties. Maybe someone can clear that up for me.

(Thanks to Ron for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Robert Thille

    You don’t understand, _not_ turning your god into crap is a sin in Catholicism.

  • I wrote a piece about this on my site here. I included a video (since removed by You-Tube) that showed that Harper took the host but it was not clear after that. Maybe he ate it, maybe not. I support Harper and I think he was badly advised – he’s not Catholic nor even an ex-Catholic like me – so does not know the protocol. He leads a minority Government and is not well liked in the Eastern provinces where this happened. Nor is he liked by the leftist CBC and Toronto Star who were his biggest critics. He needs to win French-speaking Quebec to get a majority and they are 80% Catholics – although quite secular like the French – so he probably is scrambling to recover. Since there is no actual proof of what he was accused of doing, he may well be threatening to sue. I don’t know what the Politics of the particular newspaper is but if they are Conservatives like many businesses, the top management may be unhappy with the report.

  • Sure.

    These people were fired because they caused a major political scandal without need. Prime Minister Harper is not a very gaffable person, though he made a few over the last couple weeks. This is the sort of minor mistakes someone would expect from a competent-yet-uninspiring politician.

    As John Draper has said, Quebec is not particularly strong Conservative territory. Atlantic Canada has a decent mix of Liberals and Conservatives, and is probably one of the “swing” territories in Canada, saving Newfoundland. But the real flap is over the Quebecois, who as always, define our politics.

    In the end, it was a manufactured controversy that belaboured a particularly unpopular figure in Canadian politics. I can safely say that if you don’t love the Conservative Party, you probably despise Stephen Harper. And the Conservatives don’t have a majority by any means – not in the House of Commons, and certainly not in the popular vote (appx. 38% last time out).

    In our system, every vote can count in the end, and especially in Quebec and the other heavily Catholic areas.

  • JHGRedekop

    It boils down to, they essentially made up a story, published it, and caused a major political incident.

    I don’t have much use for Harper or the Host, but we can’t have people just making things up. Where did they think they were working, the New York Times?

  • They appeared to completely shit on the memory of the governor general by sensationalizing a non-Catholic seemingly not knowing what to do at a Catholic ceremony…and it was the frakking prime minister. So, yeah. Acting like the prime minister is a murderer was a big deal — regardless of what people think of him politically.

  • peregrine

    I could frankly care less about the cracker at this point. The thing I like most about this story is that the Telegraph Journal got a well deserved smack-down.

    I probably shouldn’t say much about it, since future employment may well depend on it. But sufficed to say, the credibility of printed journalism in this province has waned in recent years.

  • Dan W

    I’d love it if so many religious people would get a sense of proportion, and stop making an issue out of whether or not someone (important politician or not) ate a stupid cracker. It’s a freaking CRACKER for f*cks sake!

  • That’s an impressive response from the paper though. An actual apology, instead of a no-pology, with an actual explanation for what happened. They even attach real consequences to irresponsible reporting. No slap on the wrist here.

  • Indigo

    I’m not Stephen Harper’s biggest fan by any means, but, pun definitely intended, to hell with what he did with a cracker. Have these people forgotten about, say, the economy, or Afghanistan?

  • Aspentroll

    Wouldn’t you think that if the Cats are serving crackers they could at least have a tasty dip to go with it?
    What a totally ridiculous religious idea it is in any case. Who knows where that cracker has been? And where has the priest had his fingers prior to the hand out. Harper was right not to eat it.

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