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.
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.