Testifying at his fraud trial this week, Mike Duffy spun a hilarious assortment of whoppers, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Byron Muldoon had a cup of coffee with Karlheinz Schreiber.
Senator Accused was in top form, one moment the heart-broken dad, whose family busted up during his workaholic “lost decade,” then the champion of all the “young people,” whose jobs he saved at CTV when he selflessly accepted a senate appointment.
Through it all, he was that fat kid with the reedy voice who, against all odds, went on to become the most recognized jowls in Canadian broadcasting.
At one point in his testimony, Duffy took the court on a graphic tour of his digestive tract, noting he has “sludge” in his liver to go along with ulcers, bone pain, blood clots in his eyes, scalp lesions and angina.
Asked by his lawyer, Don Bayne, what he does to combat his ailments, Duffy said he lives a “clean and healthy life.”
Shurely this cannot be the same Senator Creosote, who itemized in his diaries the dozens of occasions he hogged down on fast food at Eastside Mario’s, Quiznos and Swiss Chalet (hmmmmmm, gravy!)But of all his self-aggrandizing nose stretchers the best was Mike’s claim that he had considered declining the senate gig in 2008 because he planned to retire to his beloved PEI.
Curiously, Duffy neglected to mention how, in 1990, his old pal Muldoon, impressed with Duff’s loyalty, offered him the job as Lieutenant-Governor of PEI.
For Duffy the prospect of trudging around the Island, grinning and greeting Japanese tourists at Green Gables held zero appeal. Not only would he have to take a 50% pay cut, but the appointment would last only five years. Duffy declined, his eye on a bigger patronage jackpot.
As for his testimony in court this week that he “wasn’t a Tory” — but a journalist hosting a show that tried to be fair to all parties—please, Mike, stop shitting us.
Have you forgotten your performance at Hy’s Steakhouse, a few months prior to the 2008 federal election—as duly recorded by the satirical press:
“Among the pisse artistes in attendance is a renowned television pundit whose affection for the Tory party is surpassed only by his passion for Oh Henry! chocolate bars. Five martinis to the wind, Mr. X leans toward his drinking partner, Tory minister John Baird, and slurs, ‘John, it’s going to be tough, but I’ll do what I can to get you a majority government.’”
In the event, the campaign soon went from cakewalk to nail biter and damned if that pesky Stephane Dion kept coming back for more.
Then a miracle—courtesy of Dion himself.
In an interview with CTV Halifax bingo caller Steve Murphy, Dion came across as confused, muddled and unable to communicate in any language.
Given Murphy’s line of questioning who could blame him?
“If you were prime minister now,” Murphy asked, “what would you have done about the economy and the crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?” Several times Dion, rather than just shooting off a prepared talking point, asked for clarification of the vague timeframe of the question.
Murphy, like a tourist raising his voice trying to communicate with an uncomprehending local, responded by reading the same question again, rather than doing what any professional interviewer would do: try to make his question understandable.
Dion still didn’t quite get it, and by the third take, he was laughing at the absurd situation. The CTV news brain trust celebrated their gotcha moment by running all the outtakes!
Giddy as a schoolgirl, Duffy told viewers: “The Harper Conservatives got some good news today [in] the form of a devastating reminder of Dion’s struggle with the English language…if you’ve got a PVR, set it on record, this is one you’ll be talking about for days.” Duffy didn’t mention that CTV had promised not to air those unedited portions of the floundering Dion.
Jubilant Tory brass proclaimed Dion’s performance worthy of Saturday Night Live, and delayed their campaign aircraft’s departure from Winnipeg so that Harper could pour more ridicule on Backpack Boy.
The subsequent uproar over CTV’s sandbagging of Dion had Duffy’s Hill colleagues questioning his ethics: “It’s the new low in a snake’s belly of a campaign,” said CanWest columnist Don Martin.
Andrew Potter, then of Maclean’s online: “Mike Duffy is a despicable human being.” The next day, following complaints from Duffy’s lawyer, Potter’s blog post had vanished.
As for Duffy’s assertion in court that he was as surprised as anyone when he got gonged for the senate, pull the other one!
On Dec. 22, 2008, two months after being returned to parliament with yet another minority, Harper announced his no-whore-like-an-old-whore stuffing of the Senate with 18 party pals, cast-offs, bagmen and toadies, among them the Puffster.
The next day, CTV News issued an ass-covering email to staff:
“When news broke that Mike Duffy could be on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s list of possible Senate appointees, Duffy was sure he would turn down the job if it was offered. The former CTV journalist and host of Mike Duffy Live said he had heard nothing from the Prime Minister’s Office, and he was convinced the reports were mistaken and he wasn’t being considered for a post.”
In fact—and contrary to his testimony Dec. 8 —Duffy was terrified this would be his last shot at a prize that had eluded him for 20 years.
He’d been working the phones for weeks, lobbying key Harperites, among them Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, President Steve’s trusted spinthingy.
But Duffy had to be discreet. He still had his CTV show and suggestions of conflict of interest might arise if he was caught actively campaigning for Harper’s plum. Above all, he had to maintain the façade of the high-minded journalist, answering the call to service of his country.
Of course, Duffy was unable to resist shooting his mouth off, and word leaked out that he’d already met with Harper on two separate occasions, and the formalities and paperwork were concluded before his last show, Dec. 19.
In preparation for the uproar his appointment would surely provoke, Duffy solicited friends and colleagues for guidance on his talking points.
Among the advisers, Liberal lobbyist Warren Kinsella. The mock Q&A included:
Question: “Doesn’t your appointment prove you’ve been a Tory hack all along?”
Duffy answer: “My entire career has been built on being fair and even-handed. I’ve always served Canada, covering the truth, engaging in public discourse. I will continue the same work in the Senate. Also, talk about your ability to collaborate across party lines, your entire career has been about non-partisanship, etc.”
Duffy also bragged that on his last day, CTV boss Yvan Fecan had phoned with congratulations. During the call, Duffy mentioned that in his new role as tribune of the people of PEI, his salary would be less than half what he made at CTV.
Fecan remained silent and Duffy later complained to friends that the network supremo “didn’t get the hint.” Duffy had hoped CTV would send him off with a farewell severance package, a little something to aid in the transition to his new life of public service.
At CTV, Duffy earned a base salary of some $230,000. Car and clothing allowances, plus bonuses and Rideau Club membership pushed his gross to around $300,000.
But there were plenty of perks in Duffy’s cash-for-life prize. As Senator Duffy he’d scoop up a base salary of $130,400 (now $142,000), with no limit on how many other jobs he could hold down as corporate director, after-dinner speaker, etc.
The job came with an office, secretary, research budget, countless parliamentary perks and per diems, free rail and air travel (64 round trip business class tickets annually), and, bien sur, that $22,000 tax-free housing allowance, which would prove to be his undoing.
All this for a gig that only required Duffy to show up for Senate sittings perhaps 76 times a year.
And he still screwed it up!