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'I' vs 'They': May's YouTube controversy centres on a pronoun

The ruckus surrounding an audiotape in which Green Party leader Elizabeth May allegedly calls Canadians "stupid" comes down to a case of "I said" vs "they said."

As The Hook reported yesterday, a YouTube video based on the audio clip spurred the Greens to threaten legal action against an online blog and claim the federal Conservatives fabricated the video in an act of campaign sabotage. May's actual comments were made during a February 2007 appearance on The Agenda, a political talk show broadcast on TVO.

Today, the publicly funded Ontario television network announced that, contrary to the Greens’ suspicions, the YouTube-posted audio clip at the heart of the controversy is not a fabrication.

“We’ve gone back and verified it,” Jill Javet, TVO’s director of corporate relations told The Tyee. “Our position is that the audio from the clip has not been manipulated.”

Yesterday, Green party spokesperson John Bennett said TVO was considering legal action against Stephen Taylor, the right wing pundit who produced and posted the video clip. Javet said those talks have now been dropped.

“We live in a 2.0 world where it is commonplace for people to post clips that they’ve seen,” she said. “Our legal concern is if there was manipulation.”

The question of whether May actually said she thought Canadians are stupid remains unclear.

After listening carefully to the original recording, Agenda producer Alan Echenberg concluded that May said “…They think Canadians are stupid,” rather than, "I think..."

Considering the Green leader was talking about Canadian politicians who fear a loss of voter support for implementing a carbon tax, the pronoun she actually used would seem to make all the difference.

Taylor said he heard an “I,” which is why he produced the video in the first place. As he told The Tyee yesterday, his decision to post the clip on YouTube was an attempt to aid the Conservative election campaign.

May will appear on the Agenda again tonight, and is expected to discuss the controversy with interviewer Steve Paiken.

Until then, TVO has invited the public to watch the disputed clip on Echenberg’s blog posting and come to their own conclusions.

Expect fierce debates between the “I” and “they” camps to follow.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook.

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