Jacques Fabi suspended a month for being stupid

One question is bouncing around in my head: What on Earth was Jacques Fabi thinking?

Fabi, the overnight host on Cogeco stations in Quebec (with CHMP 98.5FM as the flagship), allowed a caller to his phone-in show to say the Holocaust was “the most beautiful thing that could happen in history” – and then, rather than cut her off or challenge the ridiculously offensive statement, warned her that Quebec society looks down upon expressing opinions like this.

Even though it’s an overnight show, it didn’t take long for people to be outraged. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs sent a letter to Cogeco within hours denouncing the broadcast. Marto Napoli talked about the exchange on his radio show on Radio Pirate (when the Jeff Fillion radio station says you went too far, you know something’s seriously wrong). The National Post wrote a story about it. So did La Presse’s Rima Elkouri. So did the Journal de Montréal’s Sophie Durocher. For whatever reason, the story didn’t get much traction until the weekend, when we learned that Cogeco would suspend Fabi.

On Monday, we got the details: Fabi is suspended for a month, without pay, for his actions. With an official statement from Cogeco, just about every media outlet is reporting on the news now, not only in Montreal but across Canada and around the world.

Some aren’t satisfied with this, and want him to be fired outright. At least one commentator (a Radio X host, it should be noted) thinks that’s going too far.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think. Because it’s just so mind-boggling. Fabi isn’t some rookie who forgot how to run a radio show. He’s a veteran, and a man with years of experience managing calls on the radio. Does he really support the massacre of Jews? Is he an absolutist when it comes to freedom of speech? Was he drunk, or tired, or high? Was he so desperate to fill airtime that he was ready to let absolutely anything on the air?

It took Fabi only four minutes and 11 seconds to torpedo his reputation. But as anyone in radio will tell you, that’s a lot of time. Whether he’ll be able to build it back is doubtful. He’ll need to apologize profusely, but more importantly he’ll need to come up with some plausible explanation for why he thought what he allowed to on the air might be anything even close to appropriate.

This isn’t just an error in judgment. It’s a fuckup of epic proportions. One whose response will require him starting by saying he does not support the mass slaughter of millions of Jews.

And maybe Cogeco should look into providing better screening of its calls and/or better real-time monitoring of its programming.

As for “Maria”, the woman who cheered for the Holocaust because of what’s happening to Palestinians right now, I hope she gets some help. People like her are the reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dragged on for decades.

UPDATE: Fabi has apologized. Though he’ll probably need to do more when he’s back on the air. Marc Cassivi also weighs in (almost by necessity, since some were suggesting he was being silent on the matter out of some bias)

UPDATE (June 28, 2013): The Quebec Press Council has issued a decision against Fabi.

20 thoughts on “Jacques Fabi suspended a month for being stupid

  1. Mario

    Honestly although it never should have happened i think that it did because mister Fabi droped the ball on this one.

    Quite often he lets callers get away with comments that are just on the edge. He tends to let separatists or federalists go on a rant and say things that you would not hear anywhere else. He does that openly saying that those calls tend to generate other calls and wake up a few listeners…

    This time though he shouldn`t have. I agree with the punishment cause he is guilty of not being carefull but a month off is a bit harsh…

    I do not think that we should make such a big fuss about it other than blame Fabi for lazy radio hosting.
    Of course comments like the ones the caller made are unexcusable and nobody in their right mind would allow such a sad display but to think that things need to be changed because of this is going overboard a tad….
    There will always be some wackos that swears of says profanities that for unknown reasons get on the airwaves. We sometimes hear on the Schnurmaker show some pretty sad examples of spreading hatred around that is accepted and put on the airwaves without any follow up. It always depends on the way you look at it…

    The puck should stop at Fabi, it did now, he is punished severely but do not expect humans to change when in the middle of the night with a few drinks under your belt you suddenly feel brave….

    Reply
    1. Alex H

      There is a small difference Mario. Disrepectful comments are one thing, a genocide is a completely different scale of things. In the scale of genocide, Tommy’s show doesn’t even rank on the scale.

      Fabi isn’t just lazy, from his comments he appears at least passively complicit, not shutting down the ignorant opinions of this foolish caller, but rather just reminding her that it’s something not said in polite society. The undercurrent is that it’s something that he is not surprised to hear, and perhaps has heard in his own less than polite society moments.

      If you aren’t against something, if you don’t stand strongly against it, then you are at least passively supporting it. Tolerance isn’t an option, and now he can sit home for a month and consider the implications of it.

      Reply
    2. Marc

      We sometimes hear on the Schnurmaker show some pretty sad examples of spreading hatred around that is accepted and put on the airwaves without any follow up.

      Examples?

      Reply
      1. Mario

        My bad ! Did not want to go there but in a way it illustrates what i wanted to say about Fabi . It is all a matter of how you see things. I think that Fabi is not racist he is just lazy and blasé. Some say fire racist guy ! It is going way overboard don`t you think ?

        He publicly apologized about it as he should and i am sure that he will be more careful about the way he deals with sensitive subjects in the future.

        I think that we should be happy to be able to openly talk and protect each other`s rights even though it came out of a sad story.

        Reply
        1. Alex H

          Mario, the problem is simple: If Fabi was either racist or tolerant of it in this case, where else will it occur? Does our society need to have someone like that in a position to influence what other people think? It’s easy to see if this is tolerated, supported, whatever… then it can be repeated, retold, and reiterated until it becomes perhaps a societal norm.

          There is no margin for this sort of stuff. Fabi went over the line, failed to use good judgement in cutting off a poor line of discussion, and went further by tolerating and effectively encouraging it, and as Frank mentions saying “Alors le méssage est passé, Madame. Merci d’avoir téléphoné”. That is pretty much clear support and incredibly poor judgement.

          That Fabi still has a job today is remarkable.

          Reply
  2. Alex

    I listen to Fabi when I come home from work and I must say he often let some caller talk way too much. This of course was an extreme example and he should have disconnected her right away. I remember last Wednesday a caller went on a pretty hardcore rant about the Catholic church (he said he was a orphelin de Duplessis) and said many outrageous things but Fabi as usual let the guy talk way too much. Maybe he thinks that anybody should have the right to call and rant all they want but I hope with that after the Maria incident Fabi uses better judgment. His old show at CKAC was of higher quality than what he’s been doing at 98.5FM.

    Reply
  3. x_ine

    Agreed on all counts.

    As this Fabi character is “seasoned” veteran – yes, he should have known better. And he should have been canned.

    The fact that he let this caller rant and rave speaks volumes. At the same time, it is hardly surprising. Quebec is not a tolerant society. Saying otherwise is delusional.

    We will never see peace in the Middle East – or anywhere else – until this hate mongering stops.

    Reply
    1. Alex

      Quebec is a tolerant and peaceful society. Stop insulting my Province. Fabi was suspended for a month without pay and his comments have been denounced by everybody.

      Reply
      1. Kevin

        @Alex
        We’re not insulting our province, we’re pointing out flaws in the character of many of its inhabitants.

        There are a significant number of bigots in this province, and to pretend otherwise is to deny frequent news reports about abusive transit staff, urban and suburban police officers, and government leaders who want to institutionalize religious restrictions.

        Doubt me? Then tell me which expression Quebecers use to describe people of Asian descent.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          There are a significant number of bigots in this province, and to pretend otherwise is to deny frequent news reports about abusive transit staff, urban and suburban police officers, and government leaders who want to institutionalize religious restrictions.

          What’s “significant”? A majority? A quarter? What’s the average amount of bigotry in a general population, and how do we compare?

          I don’t want to minimize reports of alleged bigotry by individuals in the public service, but you can’t make generalizations based on anecdotal data. There are thousands of people who work for the STM or local police, and only a handful of cases where apparent bad apples have been exposed. We have little evidence that the publicized cases are representative in any way of the larger population.

          Reply
    2. Marc

      Quebec is not a tolerant society. Saying otherwise is delusional.

      Do you actually believe what you’re saying? Or are you just a troll?

      If you were to take a walk down St. Catherine, you’d tell me most of the people walking the street are racists? Get real!

      Reply
  4. Lorne

    The punishment should be that he is fired. He is getting off easy with just a suspension of 1 month. This incident should be a wake-up call to Cogeco that this station has been broadcasting this kind of racist content for too long and is overdue for a change.

    Reply
  5. Frank

    Why should he have known better? He *does* know better; his true colours have finally shone. You can “hear” the somewhat frustration at his being gagged by the CRTC in expressing his real thoughts regarding the jewish community and when the call ends you sense the vicarious relief when he says “Alors le méssage est passé, Madame. Merci d’avoir téléphoné”

    Reply
  6. Kevin

    There are many ways to measure racism and bigotry. In Wednesday’s La Presse there’s an article about the overt and covert racism faced by immigrants and it compares province to province.

    http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/national/201211/28/01-4598460-emploi-les-immigres-sont-desavantages-au-quebec.php

    And I think that yes, you can rely on some anecdotal evidence. Having lived in several large cities and worked in each as a journalist, stories about bigotry, racism and discrimination appear much more in Quebec than other places. I’m not saying those stories are unique, I’m saying the frequency of those events is far greater here.

    There is yet one more way to judge: what is the public reaction to a public figure who says something out of line?

    Reply
    1. Kevin

      Apparently when commenting on a phone, you don’t have the option to reply to a comment. So the comment above should be under Fagstein’s from 4:14 pm

      Reply
    2. Alex

      Did you actually read the article you linked? They talk about foreign diplomas not being recognized by professional orders. So an organization like Le College Des Medecins doesn’t accept foreign diplomas and from that you accuse an entire Province of racism? And how do you explain, like the article mentions, that in 1980 immigrants made 85% of the average income of a Canadian-born worker but that in 2005 it had dropped to 63%? How does that fit with your ‘Quebec is racist, Canada is not ‘ meme that you are trying to peddle?

      And stories of bigotry in Quebec receive more coverage than those in other Provinces? Really? Wow! I never imagined that. By the way, how often do Canadian newspapers mention the Christie Pits riot? Because if that had happened in La Belle Province they would have talked about it every week for the last 80 years.

      Reply
  7. JC

    Unfortunately, Quebec has a long standing history of broadcasters bashing minorities. It is an indisputable fact. Fabi’s remarks are not unique. There have been similar incidents at other Quebec radio and television stations. In many cases, the results of listener complaints have been less effective that at Cogeco, which is still relatively ineffective. Fabi should be fired with cause. No severance pay, no notice and refused a reference for future employment by Cogeco. These must be red lines which broadcasters are not allowed to cross. If similar comments were made in the English media about Quebec there would be a political uproar. Zero tolerance. Yes or no? If not, then why play this game, why continue with this game of Quebec civility towards minorities. Unfortunately, political correctness has thrown civilization out the window. If the Jewish community made similar statements in Montreal, there would be fire bombs thrown. Enough.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Fabi’s remarks are not unique. There have been similar incidents at other Quebec radio and television stations.

      Incidents of people allowing listeners to glorify the Holocaust? Can you give some examples?

      If similar comments were made in the English media about Quebec there would be a political uproar. Zero tolerance. Yes or no?

      It’s hard to make the comparison because there hasn’t been mass murder of francophone Quebecers that I’m aware of, but I expect the reaction would be the same: universal condemnation and a long suspension.

      Reply

Leave a Reply