Monday, May 10, 2004

May 10, 2004 :Marsden Claims She Is Paying For Her Anti-Harper Views

Marsden says she's paying for her anti-Harper views: Accused in two stalking incidents, the Vancouver-area woman was hired, then let go, by Conservative MP Grewal
Vancouver Sun
Monday, May 10, 2004
Byline: Peter O'Neil

OTTAWA -- Rachel Marsden, the sex kitten political pundit whose contract with a B.C. Conservative MP was terminated Friday, has suggested that party leader Stephen Harper is more concerned about her anti-Harper political views than her controversial past.

"To set the record straight on my past, I have never been convicted of any wrongdoing in the [1996 Simon Fraser University] harassment case -- a traumatic incident I underwent while in my teens," Marsden said in a statement on the weekend.

"I have also not been convicted of any wrongdoing in the [Michael] Morgan harassment case, which is still before the courts."

Marsden, who was hired in December by Surrey Central MP Gurmant Grewal over the objections of party officials and Harper, then pointed to some of her writing on U.S. political websites, where she is touted, by herself and others, as a "babe" right-wing commentator.

"I have authored a number of columns critical of Stephen Harper, before he became Conservative Party leader, and have been asked by the leader's office to revise those articles after they were published," she said in a statement.

"That, of course, cannot be done, as they are already in print."

Jim Armour, director of communications in Harper's office, dismissed the suggestion that Marsden's political opinions were the source of the concern over her hiring.

"Ms. Marsden can speculate all she wants, but our reasons were many and quite frankly they seem to be multiplying with each passing day," Armour said Sunday.

Marsden, at the centre of two major stalking controversies in B.C., had her contract terminated Friday after The Vancouver Sun, responding to an anonymous tip, made inquiries about whether a woman in Grewal's office known as "Elle Henderson" was in fact Marsden.

Grewal confirmed that Marsden was going by the "nickname" Elle, though the MP said no attempt was made to hide her identity.

Both Grewal and Marsden said the timing of her contract's termination was coincidental and had nothing to do with calls the office had received from The Sun.

Marsden referred The Vancouver Sun to several columns in which she praised former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and denounced Harper.

Harper "has all the charisma and inspirational capacity of a mortician, all the originality of a pair of Calvin Klein knockoffs -- and all the ability to maintain due course of a drunken sailor in a windstorm," Marsden wrote to her mostly U.S. audience in February.

Harper, she wrote, compares unfavourably to Day, whose leadership after the 2000 election crumbled following a series of gaffes and a caucus revolt. Many analysts say Day's image problems began when he showed up at a news conference in a wetsuit.

Day has "an extensive knowledge of business and foreign affairs, is a proven coalition builder, a true leader, and a proud conservative in every sense of the word," Marsden wrote in arguing that Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla) should lead the new Conservative party.

"His only real mistake appears to consist of pulling up to a lakeside press conference looking a little too cool."

Marsden said Saturday it is misleading to link the termination of her contract to her past.

In the first controversy in the mid-1990s, Simon Fraser University swim coach Liam Donnelly was fired after Marsden alleged he raped her. But he got his job back after producing evidence that she had sent him gifts and sexually explicit e-mails.

Marsden is now facing harassment charges in B.C. provincial court in connection with her relationship with former radio personality Michael Morgan.

Grewal, interviewed Friday, said he was aware of the criminal case when he hired Marsden, but said everyone is "innocent until proven guilty."

poneil@canada.com