CBC Pundit Apologizes For 'Indian Giver' Blast

CBC Ombudsman report forces Kevin O'Leary to apologize for TV exchange.

TORONTO -- A Canadian Broadcasting Corp. pundit has backed down and apologized for uttering the offending words “Indian giver" on-air.

Kevin O'Leary, a venture capitalist and co-host of the business talker Lang and O'Leary on the CBC News Network, fell on his sword after being censured earlier this week by the CBC’s ombudsman for being “unambiguously offensive.”

“As the CBC's independent ombudsman pointed out in a recent ruling, the phrase was offensive and inappropriate. I agree. I withdraw the remark and apologize to those who were offended,” O’Leary said in a statement to be followed with an on-air apology. The offensive remark was made last October when O’Leary and co-host Amanda Lang were debating the privatization of a Canadian potash company by a foreign company. At one point during a heated exchange, O’Leary turned on his co-host: “You know, you are an Indian giver with a forked tongue. You sold these rights to somebody who paid hard cash for them. Now you don’t like it anymore.” Lang immediately replied: “Is there any other kind of backward example or statement phrase you want to use? Because that came from the 19th century, and I do not approve.”

Despite Lang’s immediate criticism, O’Leary chose not to retract or apologize for his on-air comment until late Thursday. That move followed Alex Jamieson, president of First Nations Communications, lodging a formal complaint to the CBC in December. O’Leary’s comments posed a dilemma for the public broadcaster.

The pundit is on contract, so his on-air comments are his own, and the CBC airs a disclaimer to that effect. At the same time, the CBC, as a public broadcaster, has its own broadcast standards to uphold, which includes a pledge not to “gratuitously offend audience sensitivities.”