Radio host suspended for handling of antisemitic call
MONTREAL — Jewish groups are divided over whether a Montreal radio station has adequately dealt with an on-air host’s handling of an antisemitic call and his own comments about the Jewish community.
On Nov. 26, CHMP 98.5FM announced it was suspending Jacques Fabi for one month and issued a written apology. Fabi also made a personal statement of regret.
The suspension stems from an incident late on Nov. 21, during his overnight talk show on the French-language station, Fabi allowed a woman, who identified herself as Maria and of Arab origin, to rail against Israel’s incursion in Gaza, comparing Israelis to dogs. She then called the “massacre of Jews” during the Holocaust “the most beautiful thing in history” and told Jews to “go to hell.”
Fabi, who has worked in broadcasting for 35 years, responded that she “probably” had the democratic right to express her opinion, but that she should be aware that making negative comments about Israelis or Jews always has “consequences.”
Then, he added that he finds the Montreal Jewish community annoying, using the crude word “enmerdant.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), whose officials had called for Fabi’s dismissal, said it is satisfied with the station’s decision and acknowledged Fabi’s apology. However, it is still going ahead with a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
B’nai Brith Canada, which never asked that Fabi be fired, is not satisfied because, according to its legal counsel Steven Slimovitch, neither the station nor Fabi has addressed the real issue.
To him, the objection is not only that Fabi did not cut off the caller quickly enough, but that he was “almost complicit” with her in her diatribe against Israel and, more seriously, the Jewish People.
Both organizations would like to see the station and Fabi make on-air apologies, with Slimovitch adding that there should be a live discussion of the wrong that was committed.
On Nov. 26, the senior management of station owners Cogeco Diffusion issued an apology, via a wire service, which describes the caller’s remarks as unacceptable and reprimands Fabi, whose suspension became effective on Nov. 21, the date of the incident.
“The on-air host, Jacques Fabi, failed in his obligation to observe and enforce the codes of ethics of the industry and of Cogeco Diffusion [one of Quebec’s largest radio broadcasters]…
“Cogeco Diffusion and 98.5FM do not endorse in any way these comments and deplore, without reservation, the on-air host’s lack of judgment in this case.”
Fabi also issued a personal apology and statement of regret.
Slimovitch said neither apology refers specifically to Fabi’s interaction with the caller or his own remarks. Slimovitch also thinks any apology should be made accessible to the public, such as being posted on the station’s website.
The station’s manager, Réal Germain, had immediately responded to the community’s complaints by affirming that what transpired would result in “severe sanctions” against Fabi. Fabi himself had offered his regrets on his Facebook page.
Spokesperson Rabbi Reuben Poupko said CIJA found it shocking that Fabi not only did not admonish the caller, but said that he wished he could have the same liberties as the “anonymous” woman. Instead, Fabi said he was forced to wear “white gloves” when it came to the subject of Jews or Israel.
In its complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, CIJA accuses the 98.5FM host of the “promotion of violence and hatred toward Jews” through his “encouragement” of the caller.
Taking the longer perspective, Rabbi Poupko said, “We would hope that this would give radio show hosts pause should they be faced with a similar situation. We would have expected more from an industry veteran, and it will take him a long time to earn his employer’s trust and that of his listeners.”