The Privatization of Stephen Harper

I’m not sure what to make of this bizarre Canadian Press story (that link is to the Globe and Mail version). It’s a story about how some outlets got “the Harper story” – that is, his hospital visit last night – wrong. Some papers reported Harper had an athsma attack last night. He didn’t. He’s got a chest cold.

Now, this isn’t an issue of national importance, but it is the same syndrome the U.S. press was showing earlier this year.

Better get it right than get it first.

But instead of having that apologetic, correctional tone you would expect a “we got it wrong” story to have – the piece seems to blame Harper’s staff for the mistake:

If Canadians are still getting used to the idea of Harper as prime minister following Monday’s federal election, the intense media interest in this non-emergency hospital visit is likely a wake-up call for the designated leader himself.

A local Ottawa Citizen reporter at the hospital on Thursday evening was told by Mr. Harper’s staff: “This is a private matter. You shouldn’t be here.”

By the next morning, Mr. Harper’s team was more forthcoming.

“I understand there have to be questions about the prime minister-designate that normally we would say: ‘It’s none of your business,”‘ said Ms. Stewart Olsen.

Say what? I mean, if your comment from Harper’s staff at the hospital is “This is a private matter” and you take that to mean “Harper had an athsma attack” then you’re the idiot, not the spokesperson you talked to.

Furthermore, the second half of the story seems to be justification for getting the facts wrong in the first place. Why must we know how reportage on the private health matters of Canadian prime ministers differs from U.S. presidents?

You were wrong. Admit you were wrong. Blame yourself. And move on.

I know I have.


  1. JK, the Citizen attributes the asthma angle to William Stairs, Harper’s director of communications. Was he wrong? Or did the Citizen reporter misinterpret something he said?

    I don’t think we should jump to blaming the reporters on this, it could be a source oopsie.

    On another note, what I found weird was when I opened my apartment door this morning and saw the Citizen’s lead story on Harper’s asthma attack, then went down to my lobby to get my Globe (I guess their delivery guy doesn’t have a key) and instead of that story, saw the A1 story on the rise of asthma.

    It has nothing to do with what you’re writing about, but I thought it was creepy.

  2. I haven’t seen a direct quote anywhere from Stairs saying it was an asthma attack. The Globe carried a quote on Saturday from Stairs, saying that with Harper’s history of asthma, a chest cold is cause for a trip to the emergency room.

    Now four days removed from the original story, we’ve still had three days of hospital coverage over what I think is pretty much a non-story. That Harper went to the hospital was a story – a one-day story because he ended up being fine. But those follow-ups about how Harper has to get used to having his private life examined were a bit much in my mind.

    It almost seemed as though the press was giving their justifications for examining the PM’s private life…

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