Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Settlement clears journalist of anti-Semitism accusation

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LOCAL journalist Lesley Hughes can finally move beyond the past four years of controversy.

Her accusers have cleared her of being an anti-Semite.

A confidential out-of-court settlement has been reached in her defamation claim against federal cabinet minister Peter Kent, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith of Canada and four senior members of the two Jewish organizations.

Included in that is a public statement by B'nai Brith, the congress and Kent, now the environment minister, saying Hughes is not an anti-Semite and she does not condone conspiracy theories that oppress Jewish and other minority groups.

"The Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith Canada, and Peter Kent accept that Ms. Hughes does not condone the use of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories by racist groups to support anti-Semitism of any nature," the statement said. "They therefore acknowledge and agree that Ms. Hughes is not an anti-Semite. In fact, Ms. Hughes has been an advocate of human rights through three decades as a journalist and teacher."

The full statement is linked to Hughes' website at lesleyhughescanada.com.

Hughes said her case is a lesson to all on how easily a person's reputation can be smeared.

"I need to take a deep breath and resume my former life," the freelance journalist/broadcaster said Wednesday.

"I really hope that the doors that have been closed for the last four years will open again," she said. "These were associations that were very important to me with people that I respected. People don't call you back, they don't answer your emails, they don't see you when they see you in public. It's an exercise in being 'disappeared.'

"I think that's over now. I think I can look people in the eyes again."

Hughes filed her lawsuit June 16, 2009, claiming the defendants made untrue and defamatory accusations that she was anti-Semitic in connection to a 2002 column she penned about the 9/11 attacks in New York. In that column, Hughes repeated false allegations Israel or Israeli tenants were forewarned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and did not warn others.

As a result of the criticism against her, former federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion revoked her candidacy in the Kildonan-St. Paul riding in the 2008 federal election just hours into her campaign.

Hughes said the nature of the confidential legal agreement forbids her from talking about specifics of the case.

Hughes also said she's in the final stages of writing a book about her experience. Hit and Run: My Brilliant Career in Canadian Politics, is expected to be on sale this spring.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2013 A6

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