Exclusive: Patrick Brown says sexual assault allegations motivated by ‘political adversaries’Canadian Story
Patrick Brown says he was on an indoor tennis court when an assistant told him his team needed to see him, immediately.
Hours later, he was no longer the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, brought down by allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies.
Allegations he suggests were instigated by his “political adversaries” either inside or outside his party.
“I believe this was initiated for political purposes,” Brown said. “I have a number of political adversaries and so there’s a number of people who would benefit from what happened and I hope that in the course of the investigation we’ll be able to expose who was involved in this.”
“Why do you think this happened? Think about the timing of this,” he said. “We’re a few months away from a provincial election. I’m leading in the polls by the largest margin that PC has had in recent memory. We have more members in the membership registry than at any point in the party’s history.”
WATCH: Patrick Brown addresses sexual misconduct allegations
On Thursday, Brown announced on Facebook that he intend to sue CTV. The network has said it stands by its reporting and will actively defend against any legal action.
“We welcome the opportunity to defend our journalism in court,” CTV said in a statement.
In a lengthy hour-long interview with Global News, Brown detailed his version of what happened on Jan. 24.
At 4:24 p.m., a reporter from CTV emailed Brown’s team with a detailed list of sexual assault allegations from two woman. Only one full name was given. Only one allegation included a precise timeline. The story was set to be broadcast at 10 p.m.
CTV said Brown did not respond to their request for comment after they reached out and did not request a deadline extension for his response.
“He did call a pre-emptive news conference prior to our story airing,” a statement from CTV said. “We understand Mr. Brown’s advisors knew for a number of days we had been working on a story prior to us reaching out to Mr. Brown for comment.”
One of the women originally alleged she was a high school student when Brown gave her alcohol and asked her to perform oral sex. The accuser later told CTV she was of legal drinking age and had graduated high school.
The second woman, who was working for Brown at the time, claimed he lured her into his bedroom during a party and attempted to have sex with her. CTV stands by its reporting and both of the accusers stand by their allegations.
What happened next depends on who you ask.
Brown has one recollection of events. Members of his senior staff have another.
Brown, adamant the allegations were false, insisted they fight them.
It was a fight his deputy campaign manager, Dan Robertson, and his chief of staff, Alykhan Velshi, said they wouldn’t be in his corner for. They both say they advised Brown to resign.
“I told Patrick, in my view, he could not survive as leader,” Robertson said. “The number and nature of the allegations would render him unable to effectively perform as leader, … that the public opinion challenges were insurmountable, and that he would not be able to keep the support of caucus.”
WATCH: Former Ontario PC leader refutes sexual misconduct allegations
Brown has a different recollection. “My senior team recommended that we have a press conference, and that I immediately tell the truth, to tell my side of the story, that these are absolute lies. It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised.”
Robertson says this is misleading. “We were asked for advice on what he should do if he decided to fight. The reply, in that case, was that he should hold a news conference.”
“That is not the same thing as suggesting that it was our ‘recommended’ course of action. It was not. To repeat: I said he could not survive as leader and that he should step down on his own terms rather than be forced out,” Robertson said.
Velshi, who says he also recommended Brown resign, told Global News that “a few days before” the CTV story broke, Brown said he had been contacted by a reporter concerning a sexual misconduct allegation involving a former staffer.
“He did not provide me any details about the specifics of the allegation other than to reassure me it was false,” Velshi said.
Brown says he had heard a “rumour” that a CP24 reporter had asked a question about his sexual conduct in December, but hadn’t been worrying about it. It wasn’t until the night before CTV’s story broke that he got phone calls alerting him to the fact CTV was asking questions about his sexual conduct.
At 9:53 p.m. Brown emerged alone at a hastily-called press conference. The fiery leader, who had spent more than two years grilling Wynne in Queen’s Park, appeared shaken as he addressed reporters. His voice broke often and he sounded on the verge of tears.
Roughly one minute before Brown started speaking, three members of his senior campaign team resigned en masse on Twitter.
“It was deeply hurtful and disappointing,” Brown said.
Within minutes, other members of his staff began resigning. The party’s press secretary, Nick Bergamini, and policy adviser, Ken Boessenkool, also announced on Twitter they were stepping down.
“The number and nature of the allegations would render him unable to effectively perform as leader (especially given the imminence of a general election),” Robertson said in an email to Global News. “The public opinion challenges were insurmountable.”
“I predicted that he would not be leader by the end of the week and that it would be far better if he left on his own terms,” Robertson said.
But Brown was still planning to fight. He wanted to stay on as party leader and said as much during his press conference. But as word of his staff’s departure spread, he said his “world came crashing down.”
“When the news broke that senior staff had quit, then caucus started to demand a resignation and it just snowballed from there, to the point I was thrown under the bus pretty quickly,” he said.
Caucus held a conference call. Brown said he listened in for a few minutes but then spoke. He wanted to stay as PC leader. He wanted to fight. But he would do what’s “right for the PC Party.”
“I’ve been a member since I was 14 and I would do what’s right for the party, but I didn’t want to resign. I wanted a chance to meet with caucus in person to refute these allegations, and then together make a decision on how to go forward.”
WATCH: Patrick Brown answers questions about his reputation
But he didn’t get that chance.
“I was in another room with my sisters who were consoling me for what was happening and I thought I would have been shown the email or a draft of what was being prepared, and then I found that it is all done,” Brown said.
He says he did not agree to the announcement of his resignation. “The resignation was sent out without my permission.”
According to other people who were in the room that night, Brown did agree to step down.
By Jan. 26, the party had chosen Vic Fedeli as its interim leader, with Velshi brought on as his chief of staff. A leadership race was announced. Boddington had moved over to manage Caroline Mulroney’s leadership campaign.
“I came to the office the morning of January 25 partly to clean out my office, but mainly to check in on [staff] who were understandably in a state of shock,” he said. “On the evening of Friday January 26, the interim leader called me and asked me to rejoin OLO as chief of staff to him to help with the transition. I believed I could be a source of stability and continuity during this chaotic period. I have been neutral in all leadership activities.”
The turmoil continued inside the PC party when president Rick Dykstra announced his resignation on Jan. 28, just hours after being contacted by media regarding an allegation of sexual assault involving a young female staffer in 2014. Dykstra denies the allegation.
When Brown was asked if his downfall was a political coup, he said he believes it was initiated for “political purposes.”
Brown wouldn’t speculate as to who specifically was behind his downfall but he was adamant that someone “put them up to this.”
David Butt, a Toronto lawyer representing one of Brown’s accusers, pushed back strongly against the theory that the woman he represents was manipulated for political gain.
“That is another way of demeaning, discrediting and shaming a survivor to ascribe to her motives that she never had and would never even think of having,” Butt said.
“She is the antithesis of a political operator. She has no stake in anything political, even remotely. She is not connected in any way to either Ontario Politics or frankly, Ontario,” he added. “The way that this story came out had nothing whatsoever to do with political operatives and everything to do with deep digging journalists.”
Global News reached out to the second complainant but did not receive a response. She has previously said that she stands by her account.
Robertson says it’s “unfathomable” someone inside Brown’s party would sabotage him.
“The PC Party was in a better position to win the next election than it had been for 19 years,” he said. “That is to Patrick’s credit. It’s unfathomable that anyone within the Party — much less people who have devoted years to making Patrick premier — would sabotage this opportunity.”
CTV, too, took issue with the idea their story was in any way politically motivated.
“CTV News was careful and took necessary steps to ensure there was no political motivation on behalf of the two female complainants,” the news organization said in a statement. “Further there was no political connection to how CTV News received this story.”
Fedeli, the newly appointed interim leader, vowed in a speech Jan. 30 to clean up the party and “root out the rot.”
“I certainly hope he regrets that comment because it’s inconsistent with the reality of the strong position the party was in,” Brown said. “More money in the bank than ever before, leading in public opinion polls for two years, winning by-elections everywhere.”
Fedeli did not respond to request from Global News for comment.
The Progressive Conservative leadership race is now being fought between candidates Christine Elliott, Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen. A leadership debate is scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.
Elliott has said Brown should be allowed to run in the March PC leadership race if he clears his name.
Brown says everything is on the table, including legal action, as he searches for answers.
“I just want to get to the bottom of who made up these lies, why this has happened,” Brown said. “We’re going to get the truth out and they will be exposed.”
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.