Ross Porter is Accusing Me of Slander

Yesterday afternoon, I received the following letter from Howard A. Levitt, a lawyer who claims to be representing Ross Porter.

Ross Porter is Accusing Me of Slander

I replied asking for specifics, and received this response from Mr. Levitt:

howard

I actually didn't know the name Ross Porter until this story broke in the Globe & Mail on June 7, 2018 under the headline "Toronto’s JAZZ.FM91 CEO steps down in wake of probe into sexual-harassment allegations". It opens with this paragraph:

Long-time broadcaster Ross Porter stepped down last week from his position as president and CEO of Toronto’s JAZZ.FM91 radio station on the heels of a third-party workplace investigation, a probe spurred by a letter from more than a dozen current and former employees alleging he had sexually harassed staff and created a toxic workplace.

Naturally, when I've had people like Dani Elwell, Jaymz Bee, Heather Bambrick, Ralph Benmergui and Bill King on my podcast, I had to ask about their experience at JAZZ.FM91. How could I not? It's definitely one of the most compelling Toronto radio stories of the past year. Here's the most recent update from the Globe & Mail. If this isn't the premise for a movie, I don't know what is. As Simon Houpt (who has done great reporting on the story over the past year) put it last week:

A dissident group of member-donors of JAZZ.FM91 triumphed in a tight proxy battle Friday afternoon – capping months of turmoil that began with allegations of workplace misconduct – by tossing out the board of directors of the not-for-profit Toronto radio station and replacing it with their own slate.

Now back to Mr. Levitt's threatening letter. It quite upset me. I didn't think it was fair. I listened back to the aforementioned episodes to ensure my memory was correct. Every reference I made was to an article I read in the Globe & Mail. My guests merely shared their personal experiences. There was nothing close to slander. But to be ultra-safe, I did two things:

  1. I edited the episodes to remove references to Ross Porter. I kept the original source, of course, but had just received a threatening letter from a lawyer and felt this was a quick way to resolve things.
  2. I retained a lawyer and got legal advice.

In hindsight, I should have done #2 before #1, but I digress.

Armed with legal advice, I can say without any doubt that what was said on my podcast was in no way slanderous to Ross Porter. I am angered by the threats and intimidation by Mr. Porter's lawyer. So is my lawyer. He's personally angry that I'm being bullied in any manner. I have several legal options and I'll be considering them all over the weekend. I may not have known who Ross Porter was before, but I do now. And I am not going to let him shut me down unjustly and unfairly. I have done nothing wrong.

The Dani Elwell, Jaymz Bee, Heather Bambrick, Ralph Benmergui and Bill King episodes are all excellent and my my goal with Toronto Mike'd remains to give them a platform where their stories can be heard. I sincerely hope you give them each a listen and consider subscribing. I'll update you on this ordeal as it progresses.

Dani Elwell

Dani Elwell and me

Heather Bambrick

Heather Bambrick and me

Jaymz Bee

Jaymz Bee and me

Ralph Benmergui

Ralph Benmergui

Bill King

Bill King and me


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Comments (27 - click here to join in!)

Justin

This looks like a clear example of a frivolous suit designed to intimidate you into taking down the material. I doubt Porter has any desire to take you to court over this. And obviously Porter has no legal leg to stand on unless the statements made were demonstrably and verifiable false, which is unlikely.

Legally speaking (and hypothetically), what I'm wondering is this: if slanderous statements were made on a podcast by a guest, would only the guest or the owner of the guest's platform (i.e. the podcast host) also be liable? Seems doubtful to me that someone could be held liable for statements they did not make but at best only facilitated.

February 21, 2019 @ 8:14 PM

Jeff

Is that the same Howard Levitt that appears on Newstalk 1010?

I would think that an interview subject's statements are their own. Isn't that kind of the point of an interview? I've been kind of skipping the Jazz FM stories to date but now I'm hooked. Thanks Howard!

Love the podcast Mike. Some great behind the scenes on media and personalities in T.O.

February 21, 2019 @ 8:46 PM

GUNTer

Fucking hell!!! Ridiculous! Sorry you had to waste energy and money on this type of nonsense.

February 21, 2019 @ 9:32 PM

Carl B

NIL ILLEGITIMI CARBORUNDUM

February 21, 2019 @ 9:33 PM

Pete

Whoa whoa whoa whoa. I’ll save the “who in the blue fuck is Ross Porter?!” But what stuck with me the most, that just sounds beyond extreme, is that his son tried committing suicide because of what was said in the four podcasts.

Hope you stick it to him, Mike.

February 21, 2019 @ 10:18 PM

Lorne

+1 to all of the above. It's a whole other level of despicable for him to use his family's tragedies for his own gain. You do NOT use people you purport to love that way.

But such is the way of bullies and (huge air quote alleged end huge air quote) sexual harassers.

February 21, 2019 @ 11:28 PM

Vic

When you start achieving great levels of success, those are the times where the snakes come out to try and take you out of the game through intimidation and fear.

Dont let these people get to you Mike, it's clearly just some kind of sick tactic being used in an effort to silence you. All you have to do is rise above it, dont let the fear get to you and stick it to them by publishing even greater content. Most importantly, dont even consider taking down the content for the aforementioned content. Keep it on the site and let their blood pressure boil, not yours!

February 21, 2019 @ 11:31 PM

Rick

Playing the victim to hide the allegations against him. Quite sad. Stick to your guns Mike.

February 22, 2019 @ 7:17 AM

dan d

Howard Levitt is a buffoon who spews rightwing garbage every week on 1010.

February 22, 2019 @ 7:17 AM

Grant Ferguson

Wow. I once had respect for Howard Levitt. I've now completely lost it.

As a lawyer, he knows full well that repeating what has already been written in other papers is not slanderous. The fact that he would write this letter knowing full well that what he is threatening is not supported in law demonstrates a lack of character, and a willingness to set aside his personal ethics so long as his client's checks will cash. Just completely dishonorable.

Ironically, I didn't know who this guy was either. But now this letter has brought all of the sexual harassment claims against him to my attention. Seems like Howard Levitt's dishonorable attempt to quash the story has actually raised the public's awareness. Maybe Ross Porter should have hired a PR person rather than a lawyer that doesn't understand the law.

February 22, 2019 @ 8:04 AM

Broni

I will agree with everything that the commenters before me have said, while adding that they forgot to use spell-check and managed to spell "email" wrong.

February 22, 2019 @ 8:09 AM

McNulty

I love that he (or his assistant) spelled e-mail incorrectly.

I would caution the anonymous commenters to be careful. I am sure Mike will get another letter claiming libel with all of these comments. I hope that's not a libelous comment. And I hope that wasn't either.

February 22, 2019 @ 8:14 AM

H.o.E.

I agree with the other comments here. I also had never heard of him. And the part of the letter using his wife and son's problems in an attempt to gain sympathy -- wow, what a repulsively idiotic, disingenuous, and weaselly thing for him and his lawyer to do.

February 22, 2019 @ 9:36 AM

@ellebeevee

Hey Mike,

Total scare tactics. I used to work in HR and managers would get accused of all sort of things by letters from employees which would be upsetting to them. But it's just a legal tactic, that's all. Getting a lawyer to formally respond to him is the best way to go. And just know that anything you write on your site might be used against you. Just make sure your lawyer has guided you properly on what you can or can't comment on.

I heard both the Bee and King episodes which were awesome in their own right because they were about the music. I don't recall hearing either of these two gentlemen saying anything that I would consider damaging.

Stay strong, and another lesson learned about broadcasting.

Linda

February 22, 2019 @ 9:38 AM

jj

Sigh, sending you positive thoughts. Please clear everything with your legal, I don't want comments or posts to do anything disruptive. You don't deserve the grief.

February 22, 2019 @ 9:50 AM


bsmntdwllr73

And here I foolishly thought that the current issue of the latest, still-quite-zany incarnation of Mad Magazine would be the funniest thing I read today. Shows what I know!!👿

February 22, 2019 @ 11:39 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@ellebeevee

I actually ran this entry by my lawyer before publishing.

February 22, 2019 @ 4:26 PM

Beatts

Hey Ross Porter, go fuck yourself.

There, now send me a letter you dumb fuck.

February 22, 2019 @ 11:34 PM

bsmntdwllr73

@Beatts
I wonder if the man in question is double-jointed enough to perform that most tasteful request!?!
As the still quite eloquent brain-damaged Rocky Balboa says to that slimy Don King substitute George
Washington Duke, "Sue me for what?"

February 23, 2019 @ 9:19 AM

bsmntdwllr73

The above quote comes from Rocky 5, for those who prematurely gave up on that already long-in-the-tooth series, btw!! P.S., if anyone ever feels an urgent need to sue me, well, all they're gonna get is
an archival collection of belly button lint, early morning eye s schmutz remnants, and perhaps
my most cherished personal keepsakes of all, a thimble of 'floor scraps' left over from my Bris,
Good luck with all that!!

February 23, 2019 @ 9:24 AM

Lake Field

At least you have a loyal listener - someone who ploughed thru all the relevent podcasts that allegedly slandered him. Perhaps it was the assistant who misspelled E-mail.

However, why wasn't this letter sent to your guests? After all, the words came out of them, not you. They didn't have to answer your queries, indeed, some didn't.

The medium wasn't the message, it was the content.

Anyway, press on regardless, fight the fight.

February 23, 2019 @ 1:46 PM

Rick C in Oakville

Totally agree with Lake Field, words were from the guests. Wish I had a chance to listen to Jaymz Bees episode befre the edit. Did listen to Heathers podcast

February 23, 2019 @ 5:04 PM

Axll33

Freedom of speech is important and obviously the issues at this radio station are very sensitive to some.Some being that small audience this station has.Mike here is some free advice let it go dont you start litigating it becomes a vicious circle.

February 23, 2019 @ 8:59 PM

Jai

in future you can run a disclaimer before and after each guest..the views expressed are those of
the guest only and not THE HOST. Mr.Porter is a real hypocrite never wanted Caribbean Jazz that
incorporates the steel pan on Jazz FM.But had no qualms attending the Barbados Jazz festival to
hear these artists but refused to air that type of Jazz.I guess he did not mind being wined and dined.

February 23, 2019 @ 9:43 PM

dunf

Ah, the dangers of live pod.
If a podcast were print, you'd have an editor to intercept such scare stuff.
Booga booga, Mike.
Clearly remember my joke item about a Hamilton Aquarium, clearly a public fish showplace. I tagged it with "Don't eat the fish."
Weeks later, my boss told me they'd taken a call from the Aquarium restaurant in Hamilton.
There's no splash museum in Hamilton. Only a seafood restaurant.
Eat fish. Eat crow. I did.


February 28, 2019 @ 10:25 PM

Anonymous

Wasn't Conrad Black an Order of Canada recipient as well … ?

May 4, 2019 @ 3:28 PM

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