By Jonathon Van Maren
Earlier this evening, Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown staged a teary press conference at 9:45 PM, his voice cracking and his eyes filling with tears as he read a short, terse statement to the press and then hastily scurried off down the hall, with journalists still shouting questions after him. Here is his statement in full:
A couple of hours ago, I learned of troubling allegations about my conduct and character. I’m here tonight to address them. First, I want to say that these allegations are false. Everyone one of them. I will defend myself as hard as I can, with all the means at my disposal. I can’t speculate on the motive of my accusers, I can only say that what they are saying is categorically untrue. It’s never okay for anyone to feel that they have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way. Let me make this clear. A safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve. We need to move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province—across the country. Everywhere. I know that the court of public opinion moves fast. I have instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in a court of law. In short, I reject these accusations in the strongest possible terms.
Three top staffers have already abandoned Brown, releasing a statement on Twitter:
Joint statement from Andrew Boddington, Alykhan Velshi, and Dan Robertson
Earlier today, all three of us became aware of allegations about Patrick Brown. After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as PC Party leader. He did not accept that advice. Since it is our view that this advice was in the best interest of the PC Party, we have therefore resigned our positions as, respectively, Campaign Manager, Chief of Staff, and Deputy Campaign Manager (Strategy).
If Brown’s campaign managers and chief of staff are asking him to resign, then this must be really, really bad—and Brown’s career is probably over. CTV News has just released the story—and I’m warning you, this is some really graphic stuff:
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown is facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct from two women who spoke to CTV News. In interviews, the women allege inappropriate behavior by the rising political figure throughout his tenure as an elected official.
One was still in high school when she says Brown, a well-known Barrie politician, asked her to perform oral sex on him. The other, a university student who worked in his office when Brown was a federal Conservative MP, alleges Brown sexually assaulted her following an event she helped organize.
Brown’s lawyer has responded, saying that Brown “categorically denies these false and defamatory allegations.”
Both incidents are alleged to have happened inside Brown’s home in Barrie, Ont., after the women had been drinking in his presence. Brown, a well-reported teetotaler, was not drinking alcohol at the time of the alleged incidents, both women told CTV News. CTV News has agreed to protect the identities of the women who have come forward.
The first incident occurred more than 10 years ago. The woman, a high school student in Barrie at the time, said she and a mutual friend met Brown at a bar. Brown then invited them back to his home and provided them with alcohol, though the woman was under the legal drinking age at the time.
She says she was drunk when Brown invited her for a tour of his home. When the pair entered the bedroom, Brown closed the door and exposed his penis to her.
“He pulled down his pants said, and I don’t know if he said ‘suck my dick’ or ‘put this in your mouth,’ but something along those lines,” she said. The woman alleges that he then asked her to perform oral sex, which she did for a short time before stopping.
“It was like a controlling thing… like I just remember I wanted to go, but that wasn’t happening.”
She says she then left his house and went to a nearby friend’s place.
“He’s an old, single, politician preying on young girls. He’s just a sad person,” the now-29 year old said.
Another woman came forward with a similar story, detailing her time working for the MP in then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government. She spoke to CTV News in an on-camera interview. She said she met the then-Conservative MP in November 2012 on an Air Canada flight when she was 18, coming home from university. Hours after the flight, at 11:21 p.m. — a time that was verified by social media accounts viewed by CTV News — Brown sent the woman a message: “Are you impressed I remembered your name? I am.. LOL”
Brown gave the woman his phone number and the names of Barrie bars that he’d be at that night, offering her help to skip any lineups, even though she was 18 at the time — below Ontario’s legal drinking age.
“I kinda laughed it off as an older man… hitting on me,” the former staffer said. She didn’t take him up on the offer, but months later when she was looking for a summer job she reached out to Brown and asked if he had any openings or if he knew of other opportunities. After an interview in his Parliament Hill office, Brown hired her to work in his Barrie constituency office.
Brown tasked her with organizing the Hockey Night in Barrie charity game he hosts annually. Emails from Brown viewed by CTV News confirmed this.
“You know you are my favourite :)” writes Brown in an email to the woman days before the Aug. 15, 2013 event. At an after-party in a now-closed local nightclub, The Bank, the woman says Brown and others provided her with a string of free alcoholic beverages. She was by then legal age.
“It was too many to count,” the former staffer said.
When the bar closed, the party moved to Brown’s home, all captured on social media.
The woman says she was extremely drunk when Brown invited her and a male friend of his to Brown’s bedroom to look at photographs of a trip to Asia stored on his iPad.
Brown’s friend then left, leaving her and Brown to sit alone on the bed.
“The next thing I know he’s kissing me. Sitting beside me, kissing me and then I was, I kind of just froze up. He continued to kiss me and he laid me down on the bed and got on top of me. I remember consciously trying not to move my mouth and I was just not moving, so I was laying there immobile and he kept kissing me,” she said.
“I felt it was sexual…I felt that it would have gone to sexual intercourse if I had not done anything,” she said. “I would characterize that as a sexual assault.”
“That scenario, like of a very inebriated young employee in the bedroom of her boss, alone with him, who hasn’t had a drop of alcohol all night, just that’s an intimidating situation and I was not sure what to do about it,” the former staffer said.
She told him to stop, saying she had a boyfriend and told Brown to take her home, which he did, driving her back to her parents’ house.
The woman said she did not report it to authorities or otherwise because she didn’t know what options she had, and tried to move on.
“I didn’t think that there was any sort of recourse that I could take because I did think this is something that in maybe in another job, I would go to maybe HR about. But I didn’t feel, I didn’t even know who HR was in this context. Particularly being in a constituency office. I mean, I just didn’t know what to do.”
Brown often travels to India. After the party, the woman says he pressed her to join him as his assistant on an India trip, promising all expenses would be paid. He also gave her a raise.
“He told me that I, you know, he thought that I would look really good on an elephant,” she said. “I remember thinking, well, ‘Would I have my own hotel room? … I remember thinking, is there some sort of expectation?'”
She later spoke with her father about the incident and the invitation.
“I just remember feeling so relieved that I told somebody,” the former staffer said.
CTV has spoken to her father, who corroborated her version of events. He encouraged her to reject the offer.
Three other people close to her also confirm that she recounted the incident with Brown to them in the months that followed.
The woman chose to return to work for Brown the following summer.
“The reason I kept working there was, I wanted to in some way and try and, despite the fact that this happened, I didn’t want to let this impede on what I saw then as a career opportunity.”
During the second summer, her job included driving Brown to various events. It was during these drives that she alleges Brown made inappropriate comments to her including about a woman he had sexual relations with, and about wanting to find an older version of her to marry.
“I felt at that point it was kind of part of the job,” she said.
Brown resigned his federal seat after winning the leadership of the Ontario PC Party in 2015. He now threatens to topple Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and become Ontario’s next premier in the June provincial election.
His former staffer says she is speaking out now to support other women who have had similar experiences.
“I don’t think that any woman young or old should be subjected to that and put in a situation where they have to decide between the career opportunity that’s in front of them and being– taking themselves out of a situation that’s at best uncomfortable and at worst unsafe.”
Brown has denied these allegations.n None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Brown’s press secretary, Nick Bergamini, has also resigned. Most are guessing that Patrick Brown will be forced to resign within a week. I’ll have more on this as the story unfolds.