Ben Mulroney steps down as ‘etalk’ anchor to make room for ‘diverse voices’

Ben Mulroney steps down as ‘etalk’ anchor to make room for ‘diverse voices’

TORONTO — Bell Media says Ben Mulroney will step down as anchor of CTV’s “etalk” to make room for “diverse voices” after the broadcaster cut ties with his wife, Jessica Mulroney, for behaviour out of line with its “commitment to diversity.”

Ben Mulroney announced his immediate departure as the face of the celebrity news show Monday as he returned to host “Your Morning” following a “scheduled vacation” last week, according to Bell Media.

“It is my hope that (the) new anchor is Black, Indigenous or a person of colour, and they can use this important platform to inspire, to lead and to make change,” said Mulroney, who has been on “etalk” since its inception in 2002.

Mulroney will continue to helm “Your Morning,” and cover red-carpet events for “etalk,” including the Oscars. He’s also set to develop new projects for Bell Media Studios.

He also addressed the controversy surrounding his wife, Jessica Mulroney, after Toronto lifestyles influencer Sasha Exeter accused the celebrity stylist of lashing out at her and trying to “silence a Black woman.”

Earlier this month, Exeter posted a call on social media to support Black voices, which she said Mulroney misinterpreted as a personal attack.

She said Mulroney threatened to speak to other companies about Exeter’s behaviour, which could jeopardize her brand partnerships. Mulroney also sent a message to Exeter suggesting she may pursue legal action.

Soon after Exeter spoke out about the harassment, CTV dropped Mulroney’s reality series “I Do, Redo,” saying her conduct violated its “commitment to diversity.”

Cityline, Hudson’s Bay and “Good Morning America” also broke off partnerships as a chorus of media personalities condemned Mulroney’s behaviour.

Mulroney later acknowledged her behaviour was “wrong” and apologized. In a statement on Instagram, she said she would step away from her professional engagements to “reflect, learn and focus on my family.”

Ben Mulroney echoed this sentiment on Monday’s “Your Morning” broadcast, noting that he can’t speak on his wife’s behalf.

“Together, we are committed to doing the work to both learn and understand more about anti-Black racism, as well as learn and understand more about our blind spots,” he said.

Cheryl Thompson, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Creative Industries, said Ben Mulroney has had a lifetime to learn about anti-Black racism. It’s time for him to reckon with his role in perpetuating it.

“We assume that it’s just a matter of replacement. Like suddenly now if you just turn on your TV, and you see Black, brown and Indigenous (people), then there’s no more racism,” Thompson said.

“The reality is that those are the faces of the company. The company itself is probably exactly the same.”

In his purported bid to amplify “diverse voices,” Ben Mulroney recused himself from the conversation about anti-Black racism, said Thompson.

She said he would have been better served by speaking to his CTV colleagues, preferably on air, about his own complicity in systemic discrimination.

For example, Thompson suggested Ben Mulroney could have talked to “etalk” co-anchor Lainey Lui about her blog post on how destructive Jessica Mulroney’s behaviour was for Exeter and other Black women and women of colour.

Lui wrote that the stylist leaned on her friendship with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, as a “way to seek forgiveness” and that her follow-up apology “fell short, again.”

As a media personality and son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Thompson said Ben Mulroney has the power, wealth and social capital to influence structural changes that could improve the lives of racialized people.

But by instead opting for silence, Thompson said he’s only serving to uphold the status quo.

“There’s so many things that someone of that level could do, but they leave it at the level of the symbolic, where it just stays in a TV moment,” she said. ”It doesn’t really trickle down into anything really tangible.”

Bell Media representatives say they’ll begin the process of finding a “diverse voice” to fill the “etalk” anchor’s chair in the next few weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2020.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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