A week after receiving a cease and desist letter from the lawyer for Premier Jason Kenney, Derek Fildebrandt has retracted a story that alleged the premier, ministers and senior staff dined at Bottega 104 in Edmonton when COVID-19 public health orders prohibited indoor dining.
Fildebrandt, the publisher, president and CEO of Western Standard Publishing, also issued an apology for the story.
The Western Standard cited anonymous government sources, and sought comment from the premier’s office shortly before publishing.
“While those sources are known to the Western Standard, we were unable to appropriately corroborate our sources’ claims,” the apology and retraction read. “What’s more, we did not provide the subjects of our story a proper opportunity to respond to serious allegations.”
“Our story should not have been published under these circumstances. We take sole responsibility for this.”
Fildebrandt added the online outlet will be reviewing its editing and publishing procedures and policies.
The Western Standard is also covering all incurred legal costs and making a $10,000 donation to Hope Mission, according to a statement from the premier’s office.
A spokesperson for the premier welcomed the unreserved apology and complete retraction.
“As we stated at the time of publishing, the Western Standard’s story was a complete fabrication,” the statement read. “Provided the Western Standard and Mr. Fildebrandt live up to the agreed upon terms, we consider this matter closed.”
Prior to joining the Western Standard, Fildebrandt was seen as a rising star in the province’s conservative political landscape, first as a Wildrose Party MLA and then as a United Conservative Party MLA.
He launched the Freedom Conservative Party in 2018 after he was ousted from the UCP following expense scandals and court troubles. He stepped away from the Freedom Conservative Party in 2019, citing a desire to leave politics.