TORONTO—Fallen CBC radio star Jian Ghomeshi apologized publicly Wednesday to a former colleague who had accused him of sexually assaulting her at work, but the woman savaged what he did to her and the broadcaster for enabling his lewd and offensive behaviour.
Speaking out for the first time since the scandal erupted in 2014, Ghomeshi cleared his throat and read what a judge said was not an admission of guilt in tones that once earned him international accolades.
“I’ve had to come to terms with my own deep regret and embarrassment,” Ghomeshi, 48, said in his two-minute statement to the court.
“I regret my behaviour at work with all of my heart and I hope that I can find forgiveness from those for whom my actions took such a toll.”
The former host of the acclaimed CBC show “Q” described his behaviour toward the complainant, Kathryn Borel, as thoughtless, sexually inappropriate, demeaning, and an abuse of his power as a famous star.
He said he now realizes he had failed to understand just how much his behaviour had hurt her.
After Ghomeshi signed a year-long peace bond, the prosecutor withdrew the single charge of sexual assault for which he had been due to stand trial next month.
Outside court, Borel, 36, who asked the court to lift a publication ban on her identity, pulled no punches in her assessment of Ghomeshi or the public broadcaster.
“Everyday, over a three-year period, Mr. Ghomeshi made it clear to me that he could do what he wanted to me and my body,” Borel said.
“He made it clear that he could humiliate me repeatedly and walk away with impunity.”
At least three documented incidents of inappropriate touching occurred, she said, including the one for which he was criminally charged. In that 2008 incident, Ghomeshi came up behind her, put his hands on her hips and “rammed his pelvis against my backside over and over, simulating sexual intercourse,” she said.
In his statement, Ghomeshi did not give details of the incident.
Borel reserved some of her harshest words for the public broadcaster, which would fire him years later, for failing to act on her complaints.
“When I went to the CBC for help, what I received was a directive that yes, he could do this, and yes, it was my job to let him,” Borel said, pausing to collect herself.
“The relentless message to me from my celebrity boss and the national institution we worked for were that his whims were more important than my humanity and my dignity.”
In a note to all staff, CBC president Hubert Lacroix expressed regret that “this kind of behaviour ever happened” at the broadcaster.
“We also feel it’s important to not lose sight of the progress we’ve made to help build a safer and more respectful workplace.”
Borel, who left the CBC because of the abuse and now works in California, said she accepted Ghomeshi’s apology as the “clearest path to the truth” because a trial would have allowed him to continue denying guilt.
She noted he had only said sorry to her, not to any of the other women who have accused him of punching, choking and smothering them.
“We all want this to be over, but it won’t be until he admits to everything he’s done,” she said.
In March, Ghomeshi was acquitted on sexual assault and choking charges related to three other complainants for incidents that occurred in 2002 and 2003. The judge said he simply didn’t believe their testimony.
One of the three woman, Linda Redgrave, said after Wednesday’s hearing that she, too, wanted an apology.
“I would like to hear him say he was sorry. I would like to hear him admit that he did what he did to me, and I actually want to know why,” said Redgrave, who has also agreed to be identified.
“He’s admitting to wrongdoing only by force; he was forced into it with this peace bond. Where’s my apology?”
Unlike the acquittal in March which sparked a raucous courthouse protest and emotionally charged debate over how the justice system treats sexual-assault complainants, the scene Wednesday was far more subdued. A handful of demonstrators stood quietly with banners that read, “We believe survivors” and “Rape is rape.”
The peace bond, valid for a year, which is not a finding of guilt, calls on Ghomeshi to stay away from Borel and not possess weapons.
Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, told Ontario court judge Timothy Lipson that the resolution was not an “admission.” Her client, she said, had been through 18 months of unprecedented public scrutiny and he had come through it with “dignity.”
“With this apology, Mr. Ghomeshi has done everything that the Crown and the courts have asked him to do,” Henein said.
Prosecutor Michael Callaghan said the apology shows Ghomeshi accepts responsibility for his actions and the harm done to Borel—something he called a “valuable consequence” of the resolution.
Lipson said he accepted the outcome knowing Borel had “significant” input into a resolution he called “entirely reasonable and appropriate” given the circumstances.
In a letter written April 30 and filed with the court, an unidentified therapist said Ghomeshi had attended 61 sessions since November 2014—after the scandal erupted—focused on the “social and personal factors” related to the charges he faced, as well as explorations of male dominance, “effective expressions of anger” and intimacy.
“He continues to take accountability for his choices and actions, and continues to explore and practise skills that support healthier relationships,” the letter states.
Ghomeshi went silent after a Facebook posting in October 2014 in which he said he enjoyed “rough sex” but said it was always consensual. He did not speak after Wednesday’s hearing, but broke into a broad smile and hugged his lawyer and family members in the courtroom.