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Sexual harassment allegation against TVO host Steve Paikin ‘not substantiated,’ external probe finds

TVO host Steve Paikin, (left), faces sexual harassment allegations from former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, (right).
TVO host Steve Paikin, (left), faces sexual harassment allegations from former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, (right). FILE

TV Ontario says an external investigation has cleared veteran broadcaster Steve Paikin of sexual harassment allegations made by former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson.

Paikin remained on the job as host of TVO’s The Agenda after the allegation came to light in February. He said there wasn’t “a shred of truth” to Thomson’s claim that he propositioned her during a lunch meeting in 2010.

READ MORE: TVO’s Steve Paikin says sexual harassment allegation is ‘complete fiction’

TVO chief executive officer Lisa de Wilde said on Friday that the third-party investigator found the allegations were “not substantiated” and Paikin did not violate the station’s policies.

“As such, the investigation is now closed. TVO is proud of the work of Steve Paikin, who has been at the centre of TVO’s journalism for more than 25 years,” she said in a statement.

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Paikin said he was relieved to read the report and thanked his supporters.

The station said 21 people were interviewed by a third-party investigator, employment lawyer Rachel Turnpenney of Turnpenney Milne LLP, over the course of an 11-week probe into the matter.

The report, which the broadcaster published online on Friday, stated that Thomson participated in the investigation and was interviewed in person twice.

The investigator said in her report that while it was made clear that Thomson believes the incident occurred, she found the incident implausible given the context and other evidence.

“Ultimately, the investigator did not accept Thomson’s assertion that Paikin, a seasoned journalist with an immense knowledge of politicians, would have conducted himself as alleged,” the report stated.

READ MORE: TVO host Steve Paikin faces sexual harassment allegations from Sarah Thomson

In a statement, Thomson’s lawyer Saba Ahmad criticized that conclusion, saying that the investigator was “not open to considering the possibility of inappropriate conduct by Steve Paikin.”

Thomson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, but addressed the findings of the probe in two Twitter posts that referenced a Facebook messenger conversation and an email that appeared to show a witness partially support her version of events.

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When probed by the investigator, however, the report states that witness said Paikin did not proposition Thomson at the restaurant, Grano’s, and that he was left with a “good impression” of him afterward.

The report stated the investigator had “serious concerns” with the witness’ credibility.

According to the report, that witness suggested to the investigator that “at most, Paikin was flirtatious and ‘extremely charming.’”​

TVO announced it would appoint an external investigator on Feb. 5, days after Paikin informed his bosses of an email he received from Thomson outlining the allegations.

Thomson, the publisher of the Women’s Post, addressed the matter in an online article on Feb. 2, saying an unnamed TV host asked if he could sleep with her during a lunch in 2010 while she was running for mayor.

READ MORE: Q&A with Steve Paikin on the U.S. presidential debate

“My assistant and I met him at Grano’s on Yonge Street, and the three of us ordered our lunch. Not five minutes into the lunch the host asked me if I would sleep with him,” Thomson wrote.

“My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table. I politely told the host that I loved my husband and would never do that.”

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That article alleged the host subsequently prevented her from appearing on his show, and she called for him to step down from his job.

The investigation also dealt with an allegation that Paikin made a sexual advance toward Thomson sometime in 2012.

In that incident, the investigator also found that “the evidence does not support a finding that Paikin made inappropriate comments or engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

READ MORE: #MeToo movement ‘furthers my loneliness,’ male sexual assault victims say

A spokesman for TVO declined to discuss how much the investigation cost the public broadcaster.

Paikin is a journalist who began working for TVO in 1992. He has hosted a number of shows for the station including Between the LinesFourth Reading and Studio 2. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013.

Thomson ran for mayor in 2010 and 2014 and later withdrew from both contests. She was nominated as the Ontario Liberal Party candidate for the riding of Trinity-Spadina in 2011 but placed second.

Following her withdrawal from the 2014 mayoral election, she registered to run as councillor for Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina but placed third to winner Joe Cressy.

-With files from David Shum

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