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This article was published 8/11/2018 (643 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon believes he's guilty of having a "bad sense of humour" — not sexual harassment.
After keeping mum for nearly a month, Graydon held a formal news conference Thursday to address allegations he had made inappropriate comments during interactions with female political staff.
"I want to stress as strongly as I can: I’m not a sexual harasser, as some in the media have portrayed. People who know me best can verify I have never been accused of anything remotely resembling sexual harassment in my past. My wife of 45 years and my children do not deserve hearing these media statements about their husband and father," the former Tory MLA said.
"I admit I’m guilty of having a bad sense of humour, and sincerely apologize to those who have been offended by my inconsiderate jokes. I have grown up in a different era. I realize some people today are much more sensitive to inappropriate humour and that going forward, I will ensure I will be more conscious about my comments."
'I admit I'm guilty of having a bad sense of humour and sincerely apologize to those who have been offended by my inconsiderate jokes' ‐ Cliff Graydon
The Free Press previously reported Graydon allegedly told two young women — on separate occasions — to sit on his lap. Graydon refuted that statement Thursday.
"I want to make something very, very clear: I’ve never asked anyone to sit on my lap. That’s a media term. The comment was, ‘You can sit on my knee or I can get you a chair,'" the 72-year-old said.
Graydon said he did not remember whether he'd asked a female staffer to lick food off his face — an incident sources told the Free Press happened this fall. He said he didn't know if more women might come forward with allegations.
"There could be many in my past. I have no idea, with my sense of humour," he said.
After taking questions from reporters, the veteran MLA acknowledged the comments he made to women could be considered sexual harassment, noting: "I recognize that now, but at the time, I felt we were all equal."
"It's entirely sexual harassment. His response today shows that he is unwilling to take other perspectives to heart and accept responsibility for his actions. Honestly, much of his statement today was so nonsensical that it doesn't even warrant a response" – one of the women accusing Cliff Graydon of sexual harrassment, in response to his press conference
One of the women who Graydon previously asked to sit on his knee told the Free Press it doesn't seem he has seen the error of his ways. Graydon doesn't understand the concept of sexual harassment, she said, requesting anonymity.
"His comments were undoubtedly flirtatious in nature. He would not treat a man the way he treated a number of young women staffers, and this is where the issue lies. It's not a simple case of having different senses of humour or misunderstandings based on generational differences; it's something more targeted and nefarious," she said in a statement.
"It's entirely sexual harassment. His response today shows that he is unwilling to take other perspectives to heart and accept responsibility for his actions. Honestly, much of his statement today was so nonsensical that it doesn't even warrant a response."
Graydon wouldn't address whether he felt the Progressive Conservative party treated him fairly by ousting him from caucus in the wake of the allegations. He said he would have preferred to serve the remainder of his term under the PC banner, but will continue to work as an independent until Manitobans return to the polls in 2020.
He will not be a candidate in the next provincial election.
"Anyone that knows Cliff Graydon knows that I’m not a quitter," he said. "I consider this an opportunity to be an independent MLA who is able to speak out on issues in an open and honest manner that are in the best interests of my constituents and the province of Manitoba."
Graydon said he would not hesitate to criticize the PC party if he believes it's not acting in the best interests of taxpayers.
The MLA, who has held the Emerson riding since 2007, said he will continue doing sensitivity training, meeting with trained professionals for at least a half-hour at a time.
"My jokes, that I now regret, were simply intended to be humorous, and I can assure those offended, they were not intended to be demeaning or harmful to anyone. I have apologized and I’ve paid a very huge price for my comments."
Premier Brian Pallister said he believed Graydon responded to the situation "in a reasonable way."
"He’s handled the situation with grace. We’ve handled the situation appropriately (for) a government that’s leading the way across Canada in making the workplace safer," the Tory premier said.
Updated on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 12:10 PM CST: Tweaks headline, adds photo
4:44 PM: Tweaks headline, adds photo, comments from premier
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