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Who won May’s ‘stupid’ war of words?

So, did Elizabeth May really say Canadians are stupid? On Friday she tried to clear that up by returning to TVO’s The Agenda. That’s the television show where the original statements were recorded in 2007, when May was asked to explain why there’s not more political will for a carbon tax.

By now, even the man who made the viral video that ignited the controversy, right-wing punding Stephen Taylor, has argued that May clearly said “they think Canadians are stupid,” while making reference to politicians who fear voter reprisals for carbon taxes.

Not so clear however, is the intent behind May’s follow-up statement: “I fundamentally agree with that assessment.”

During her Friday appearance on the Agenda, May told host Steve Paikin that what she actually said was “Disagree.”

“But I thought I heard you say ‘I fundamentally agree…,” Paikin replied.

Backpedalling slightly, the Green leader blamed her fast style of talking and then shifted gears to a technical explanation. She stated that when she started to speak, she was not being mic’ed properly. And when the levels were adjusted, the mic raised the volume on her voice just as she responded – mid sentence it would seem – to a statement made by another panellist.

May also claimed if she’d actually called Canadians stupid, the audience would have responded in kind, a response that does not appear in the footage.

Was May’s explanation enough to satisfy the voting public? The Tyee conducted an informal online survey to see what Canada’s bloggers had to say on the issue. Like the Green Leader’s alleged comments, the impact of May’s Friday Agenda appearance has been ambiguous.

On the right-wing Western Standard’s blog, a recent post by P.M. Jaworski expressed a reluctant acceptance of May’s defence. Elsewhere on the web, prolific blogger Paul McKeever picked apart May’s explanation clause by clause and attacked what he perceived as her elitist arrogance towards ordinary Canadians.

Whether a strong verdict for either position ever becomes clear is hard to say. But according to Taylor in a recent CBC interview, a strong message has emerged from the controversy:

“It almost seems to be the first lesson of doing damage control on a viral campaign is that you just don’t feed it – and that’s exactly what the Green party did by threatening legal action against (Buckdog).”

His statement demands a corollary: in today’s online media landscape, blog-driven politics matter.

Check back to today's The Tyee for a more comprehensive review of the May flap fallout.

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