The Ontario Progressive Conservatives say Andrew Lawton is a “good candidate” for London West despite his admission to being “reckless” in the past.
Lawton, a former 980 CFPL talk show host, was appointed in the riding by party leader Doug Ford last month less than two weeks after he announced his intention to seek the candidacy for the riding.
On Monday, Lawton admitted to making controversial statements in the past and released a statement on social media asking for forgiveness.
“Simply put, I was reckless in almost all areas of my life: financially, socially, sexually and vocationally. There are significant chunks of this period that I do not remember,” he wrote.
During a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Ford called Lawton a “good candidate.”
“He has come out and said some of his comments weren’t appropriate. I’ll accept that, we’re happy to have Andrew on as one of the candidates,” he said.
Lawton, who has spoken openly about his struggles with mental illness and his suicide attempt in 2010, said he struggled with mental health between 2005 and 2013. Lawton worked for 980 CFPL from 2013 to 2018.
While speaking with reporters, Premier Kathleen Wynne was asked about Lawton’s comments. The premier said she wasn’t familiar with his comments but hateful speech should be denounced.
“Wherever we hear that, wherever we see that we need to call it, we need to say that’s not OK. It’s not OK to use that language, it’s not OK to label and categorize people in that way. We’re better than that,” she said.
Critics have accused Lawton of making homophobic, racist and bigoted comments in the past while describing him as an “alt-right extremist.”
The calls to remove Lawton grew louder following the removal of Tanya Granic Allen as the PC candidate in Mississauga Centre. Ford removed the former leadership hopeful after a video surfaced of her making homophobic remarks.
A Twitter account created in April has chronicled Lawton’s past controversial comments.
In his statement, Lawton said he wasn’t seeking a pass on past actions but he was seeking “compassion and trust.” Lawton wrote he was grateful for his family and friends for allowing him the opportunity to define himself as he is today and asked voters to allow him that same opportunity.
Lawton’s statement didn’t explain how he was “reckless” financially, socially, sexually and vocationally, nor did it respond to some of the comments he’s alleged to have made.
A request by 980 CFPL for further comment from Lawton went unanswered.
Lawton is facing a storm of controversy for past comments including a 2015 homophobic Facebook about HIV/AIDS rates in Canada for comments made while working for alt-right Rebel Media between 2015 and 2017 where called equality for women the “pussification of the west” and suggested that German women “deserve” to be sexually assaulted as a result of the country’s refugee policies. Lawton’s comments were first reported by Press Progress.
Critics allege Lawton called the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women a “fake holiday” in a 2009 blog post and called those who participate in it as “feminazis.”
A screen grab from a tweet by Lawton in October 2011 reads, “An immigrant, a Muslim and a communist walk into a bar. The bartender says ‘Hello Mr. President'” while another from December 2010 says, “Wearing a bulky, wired heart monitor for a few days. I feel like a muslim.”
Press Progress reported a letter to the editor in the London Free Press in July 2007 attributed to Lawton, in which he questioned whether the Pride flag should be raised at city hall.
“Regarding the Gay Pride flag being hung from city hall: What has London come to when a flag symbolic of a group representing only five per cent of the population deserves to be hung alongside the Canadian flag — once a symbol of tradition and pride? I support equality among people of all orientations, but I do not think the face of city hall deserves to be tarnished so.”
Lawton was one of 11 candidates appointed by Ford. He was chosen over Thames Valley District School Board trustee Jake Skinner who campaigned for the nomination for two years before Lawton was chosen.
The provincial campaign is set to officially begin Wednesday, with voters heading to the polls June 7.