It isn't any wonder that in Quebec, the only profession that ranks lower than politicians in public trust, is the utterly despised used car salesmen. Ugh...
Many years ago, I was summoned, along with two other colleagues, to an early breakfast at the Delta hotel to meet with Jacques Duchesneau over some charity business, the subject of which, I can't actually recall.
What I do remember is that of the four seated at the table, only Jacques, resplendent in his Chief's uniform, was within his 5BX target weight zone.
And so it was a bit embarrassing when we all ordered to make an impression,...fruit, oatmeal or just coffee. Everyone, that is, except Jacques, who who ordered up a huge Quebecois breakfast of bacon and eggs.
No need to impress, no false pretense there. When you're the real McCoy, there's no need to put on airs!
That is Jacques Duchesneau, not a particularly complicated man, but honest, dogged, organized, disciplined, outrageously blunt and honest.
Now that Jacques is the flavour of the month, you don't need me to describe his career or upstanding nature, the newspapers, sensing the public mood, are singing his praises, the hypocrites that they are.
In terms of quality, dedication and honesty, he is the antithesis of what we have come to expect from our public officials, but in typical Quebecois fashion, there are some voices that will try to tear him down.
Quebec has a long tradition of disdaining those who become rich, successful or famous and some journalists can't resist taking pot shots, including this story by Lysiane Gagnon who mocks Duchesneau as 'Mr. Clean.'
When, last November he was accused of being dishonest and was forced to temporarily step aside while the accusations were investigated, I told readers that the accusations were scurrilous and false.
Other than Yves Boisvert, who wrote a very supportive article in LaPresse there wasn't a mainstream journalist I can recall, who defended Duchesneau as bravely;
"I followed much of the career of Jacques Duchesneau, the policeman and briefly, the politician. He is a righteous man who spent his entire career in the fight against organized crime in the police. He is the first who dared to speak out publicly about the cartel of entrepreneurs who share the contracts with the City of Montreal."This is what I wrote at the time;
"And so I was deeply saddened to see the picture of Jacques Duchesneau featured amid a rogues gallery on the front page of the Journal de Montreal last week.When the Journal de Montreal pasted Duchesneau's picture up on the front page in a rogues gallery of alleged dirty politicians, it must have stung mightily.
Adding his name to the list was a cruel act, unworthy of a reputable newspaper. But of course, it was Le Journal de Montreal, where the truth never gets in the way of a good story.
It is a case of over-reaching on a monumental scale, because Jacques Duchesneau is not a crook." Read my post
Because no direct allegation was made, the newspaper could not be held for libellous defamation even though Duchesneau was absolved. But until recent events completely cleared his name, the stain on his reputation was just as real as if he was convicted of corruption.
So here's where things get interesting.....
Last week Duchesneau went on a French talk show and made the allegation that some members of the Press were trying to 'get him' by publishing false allegations fed to them by those who want the corruption investigation shut down.
It wasn't a bombshell type of pronouncement because Duchesneau didn't name names, but last Friday, in an interview with Michèle Ouimet of LaPresse that all changed, when he did name those he felt were doing the bidding of others, trying to bring him and his investigation down.
And so he named Paul Larocque, Jean Lapierre (the ex-politician/reporter,) Andrew McIntosh. TVA, Le Journal de Montreal, QMI Agency.
Jean Lapierre had not worked on the story about the alleged election scandal but had reported that Duchesneau had played golf recently with Francois Legault, intimating that Duchesneau had political aspirations. That story turned out to be false.
The events that are unfolding eerily parallel the story line in one of my favourite movies, ABSENCE OF MALICE, released over thirty years ago.
In that movie Michael Gallagher (played by Paul Newman) is the son of a dead Mafia boss who runs an honest business in South Florida. An aggressive US Attorney, unable to solve a murder, leaks a false story to a reporter (Sally Field) that Gallagher is a target of the murder investigation, hoping that he will cooperate in return for protection. The fallout is devastating and someone close to Gallagher kills herself.
The reporter realizes the story she wrote was false but is assured that she cannot be sued. Gallagher plots revenge by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that the reporter follows indicating corruption among those that hurt him.
In the end the accusations are proved false again, but this time, the careers of the District Attorney, the reporter and the US Attorney are destroyed in the fallout. Sweet revenge!
Watch this interesting clip from the movie where the reporter is given a lesson on how to destroy someone in print by making false accusation while avoiding legal repercussions.
And so Jacques Duchesneau has decided, like the Paul Newman character in Absence of Malice to return the favour to those that hurt his reputation.
The reporters have had the tables turned on them rather neatly, now accused in public of something they probably never did (work to discredit Duchesneau's corruption investigation)
Those named by Duchesneau are squealing like stuck pigs and cease and desist letters have been sent warning the ex-Chief to stop making these accusations.
The reporters are now in the unfamiliar position of being the target of newspaper stories, not the instigators.
Andrew McIntosh, one of those named, defended himself. "Our investigation began before Mr. Duchesneau was appointed head of his unit. We do our job seriously. "
Mr. McIntosh should be careful what he says, he may have to justify his statement later on in court. Does he expect us to believe that the story he wrote was developing before Mr. Duchesneau's appointment?
How long before? Thirteen years?.. Five Years?.. Two Years?
Is it really likely that the story came together now after lying dormant for so many years?
For reporters used to asking tough questions, answering them may not be so easy.
But the accusation itself, true or false is what will be damaging to the journalists, just like their false allegations were damaging to Mr. Duchesneau and as Shakespeare wrote, there's the rub.
The reporters involved may sue, but they'll have an uphill task in getting satisfaction. Mr. Duchesneau can make a pretty good primae facie case that the reporters tried to hurt his reputation.
Mr. Duchesneau will argue that the allegations made in the newspapers were false and they were made over an alleged transgression dating back thirteen years. The thrust and timing of the story has the look and the feel of a crude stitch up.
Without contradictory evidence offered by the journalists, Mr. Duchesneau's case will probably carry.
In fact the only way to prove that the case against them false, is to produce the source of the story, something that is extremely unlikely because it breaks journalistic ethics as well as the fact that the source would be putting himself in jeopardy by testifying.
In any case, any victory won by the journalists would be Pyrrhic in nature, the trial would just
expose the journos to prolonged public exposure of the accusations!
Like a pedophile acquitted after a long public trial, the damage to one's reputation is already done.
For Duchesneau, revenge is sweet, for the reporters involved, payback's a bitch.