TORONTO – An incident in which a well-known comic actor nuzzles and licks the ear of an on-air TV journalist reporting from a meeting of comedians sparked widespread public condemnation and prompted the reporter to take the matter to police on Wednesday.
In a widely seen clip, CBC’s Chris Glover is talking back to the studio when one man leans into the frame behind him and mugs for the camera before leaving, while a second man, dressed in a green Saskatchewan Roughriders hoodie, moves in on the reporter.
The man, identified as Boyd Banks – who has appeared on CBC shows – proceeds to demonstratively lick Glover’s ear and kiss his neck while the journalist continues speaking to camera, before throwing it back to the studio with the line:
“Things are getting a little awkward out here, so I’m going to pass it back to you,” Glover said on Tuesday from the Comedy Bar in Toronto.
“Yeah, that’s a little strange. It’s really unnecessary,” host Dwight Drummond told Glover. “Just move away from that gentleman.”
While some observers argued the actions amounted to an assault or sexual assault, Glover told The Canadian Press he would leave it up to police to make that determination. What’s certain, he said, was how the incident made him feel.
“I, as a journalist, was just trying to do my job,” Glover said. “I feel deeply disturbed by what happened. I still feel like it was completely uncalled for. The whole thing just really made me feel really awkward and uncomfortable and embarrassed.”
Saskatchewan-born Banks, 54, who has multiple film and TV credits including the CBC’s “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” could not be reached for comment.
Gary Rideout, owner of the Comedy Bar, said Banks was a regular visitor, though not as a performer. He said Banks was now barred from the venue for “displaying reprehensible behaviour that I can’t condone in any way.”
In recent years, female reporters in particular have been the subject of crude, harassing catcalls which, in some cases, have resulted in charges against the perpetrator. More recently, other journalists have been physically assaulted while doing their jobs in public.
“I took the step to go to police because I hope that this person can take responsibility for what has happened,” Glover said. “Maybe this can prevent this kind of thing from happening again.”
The 40-second clip sparked outrage on social media, with some condemning what happened as an assault, and others saying they would not have remained so calm.
“This is disgusting,” CBC reporter Lorenda Reddekopp tweeted. “I also can’t believe none of the bystanders did anything.”
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“This is so disturbing and I get more uncomfortable every time I watch,” said Toronto-based writer Jeffrey Vallis, who posted the clip on Twitter along with his comment. “Why do people think it’s OK to harass and assault reporters while they do their job?”
Some, such as fellow comic Ian Sirota, defended Banks, who lives in Toronto.
“Boyd Banks also regularly feeds hungry comedians out of his own pocket and is one of the bravest comics I know,” Sirota said in a Facebook post. “Before you tear someone down look at all their actions not just one.”
Glover, who had never heard of Banks before the incident, said he was initially confused by the man’s actions. He was “acutely aware” of the rolling camera and just wanted to get through the segment by staying calm and not doing anything to fuel the situation. That proved impossible.
The moment the camera turned off, the man disappeared, Glover said.
“I felt very unsafe,” he said.
A spokesman for CBC denounced the man’s actions and praised the reporter.
“Chris Glover showed remarkable composure and professionalism in the face of a very awkward situation,” Chuck Thompson said. “Unfortunately, the trend of harassing reporters continues and is something we take very seriously.”