Chris Bittle Apologizes for Suggesting That Michael Geist is a Racist

After suggesting Michael Geist is a racist, Liberal MP, Chris Bittle issued an apology for his remarks on Twitter.

Earlier, we reported on a story about how antisemitic tweets ultimately led to the cancelling of a contract and a Canadian government being plunged into damage control. The controversy led to various government officials engaging in finger pointing, saying that it isn’t their file despite them being in the Heritage Ministry. Given that the government was warned about this for over a month, and the government ignored those warnings, it’s hard to visualize how the government doesn’t bare some fault in all of this.

That didn’t stop Liberal MP, Chris Bittle, to suggest that Michael Geist was the real racist in all of this. This after Geist was pointing out the controversy and asking Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, to say or do something about it all. The false accusation sparked widespread condemnation against Bittle. One thing became clear in all of it: his comments were not helping the government.

Today, we are learning that something has happened that has yet to otherwise happen. Bittle actually seemingly realized his comments went too far. In response to the growing outrage, Bittle has issued an apology. From the CBC:

Liberal MP Chris Bittle is apologizing for implying that University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist was racist during a Twitter dispute.

The tweet stemmed from an argument the two were having about a recent controversy over funding the government had provided to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) for an anti-racism project.

Geist told CBC he was “stunned” to see Bittle’s reaction and said it was “unbecoming of a member of Parliament.”

“When Jews bring up concerns around antisemitism … to have the inference that they themselves are somehow racist is incredibly troubling,” Geist said.

Bittle posted an apology to Geist on Friday and deleted the original tweet.

“Yesterday, in a moment of anger, I made an implication about [Geist] that was unfounded and inappropriate. I hold myself to a higher standard for the office that I hold and I apologize to Professor Geist,” Bittle wrote.

When CBC reached out to Bittle’s office for further comment, a spokesperson said the Ontario MP had admitted his comment went too far.

With respect to the comments “an argument the two were having”, it’s a little misleading to what actually went down. It implies that Geist and Bittle were arguing over this and Bittle’s racism comment came from that. In actuality, Geist was raising concerns to Pablo Rodriguez about the situation and Bittle attacked Geist. It wasn’t until after Bittle’s racism remarks that Geist addressed Bittle.

What’s more is Bittle launching personal attacks against Geist has been going on for some time now.

Once again the Minister responsible did the right thing.

Once again,Micheal. How are you using your platforms to fight hate and violence online? Still haven’t answered that.

Misleading people to promote the status quo probably won’t work.

Rage farming from urban Ottawa

Michael is aware of the Ministerial responsibility and misleading his followers. The interesting question is why law professor would do that?

Here is the Minister responsible. He did the right thing

What are you doing to fight hate Michael?

Misleading people on your platforms to maintain the status quo isn’t going to work.

Both these people know that Pablo isn’t the Minister responsible for this file.

I expect the faux rage from Ms Thomas, not from someone who I am advised is a respected academic.

The Minister responsible did the right thing

Michael knows there are three ministers in the Department of Canadian Heritage. He knows Pablo is not the Minister responsible for this file.

Why would he intentionally mislead his followers about that?

So bizarre for an academic to repeatedly do this.

The common thread in all of this is that Bittle was attacking Geist even though he wasn’t addressed in any of the tweets. What’s more is the fact that Geist didn’t respond to him all the way up to the point when Bittle accused Geist of being a racist. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Bittle is just another par for the course troll, but he is an elected MP. Geist has been more than patient with someone regularly implying that he is making misleading statements for the purpose of causing trouble – this as Bittle routinely blocks people for holding him accountable for his public statements.

This time, though, he overstepped with someone he couldn’t just block and make go away (at least in his mind). So the comment that Bittle made the racism comment “in a moment of anger” doesn’t quite ring true since he’s been seemingly rage tweeting for quite a while now. What isn’t clear is if this apology would mean that Bittle is going to at least be more respectable in the future. It’s a bit hard to envision it given what we know of Bittle’s history.

Looking at the picture more broadly, it’s things like this that makes it so much more difficult to be an advocate or journalist on digital rights. Sure, it’s great to be fighting for a better internet and a better society, but the problem revolves around people who have a tendency to launch personal and even legal threats against you for speaking truth to power. Between the hostile environment for doing the right thing and a job that can be quite thankless at times, I don’t blame people for thinking twice in getting involved here.

As someone who has received threats in the past from powerful individuals, I’ve been subject to a lot from both major political leanings in the past. What I do take comfort in knowing is that I’m nowhere near close to being alone in these experiences. I’ve had plenty of people make assumptions about my political leanings while debating what should be non-partisan issues (99% of those assumptions were quite wrong). If anything, given how everyone I’ve worked with in the past has left the journalism scene years ago, it’s something of a miracle I’m still around nearly a decade after my last colleague called it quits.

At any rate, I strongly expect that Bittle won’t be the last person launching personal attacks against us because people like Geist or myself refuse to toe the government line when we know there are major problems with forthcoming legislation or systemic problems happening in the current system. So, I won’t be surprised if people get called radical extremists (reference to what happened during a previous Canadian government) for supporting some basic level of digital and civil rights in the future.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: