News / Canada

Social media comments resurface: Manitoba premier stands by candidate Wab Kinew

Indigenous author and broadcaster Wab Kinew speaks to supporters in Winnipeg Tuesday, Feb.2, 2016. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is standing by Wab Kinew, one of his party's star candidates, despite calls he should be let go for social media comments. Selinger says Wab Kinew has apologized, has turned his life around and has worked to help others. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert

Indigenous author and broadcaster Wab Kinew speaks to supporters in Winnipeg Tuesday, Feb.2, 2016. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is standing by Wab Kinew, one of his party's star candidates, despite calls he should be let go for social media comments. Selinger says Wab Kinew has apologized, has turned his life around and has worked to help others. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger rejected calls Friday to dump a star NDP candidate.

The premier said Wab Kinew has turned his life around completely since writing offensive rap lyrics and social media comments about women, gays, lesbians and others.

"I think he has been sincere in his regrets and his apologies — long before he entered the political arena," Selinger said.

"I accept that Wab's made a huge, gigantic change in his life and I respect that. It's hard to come back when you've had challenges, and we've got to support people that want to do that."

Kinew, a well-known broadcaster and author, has been criticized by political opponents since he announced his intention to run for Selinger's New Democrats in the April 19 election.

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have pointed to Kinew's rap lyrics a decade ago that used slurs for women and gays. One song referenced hitting women in the face with his genitalia.

Kinew apologized for the lyrics in a public speech in 2014 and also in his memoir published the following year.

He came under renewed scrutiny this week when social media comments — mostly from 2009 and 2010 — surfaced. The comments made fun of fat women, called a sport "gay" and appeared to make light of a troubled reserve in northern Ontario.

Noel Bernier, a Liberal candidate, said Friday there is no reason for the NDP to keep Kinew.

"This is about a pattern of comments and behaviour. And those comments right now are hurting a lot of Manitobans," Bernier said.

He pointed out that the Liberals let go candidate Jamie Hall last week after the NDP demanded they do so over his derogatory social media comments about women.

Selinger said the two cases are different, because Kinew has apologized without reservation, while Hall tried to justify his repeated use of derogatory terms.

Kinew apologized without equivocation Friday.

"I take full responsibility. I make no excuses. I know that words can harm."

In his memoir "The Reason You Walk," Kinew admits to breaking the law as a young man and leading a troubled life that included alcohol. He writes about changing his ways when his father became sick with cancer around 2012.

Kinew hosted the television mini-series "Eighth Fire" that year, which focused on the relationship between indigenous Canadians and non-aboriginals. He also became a director of indigenous affairs at the University of Winnipeg.

Most of his questionable lyrics and social media comments pre-date that time, although one comment on Twitter from late 2012 appears to make light of third-world conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario.

"Riding in my limo back to my king-sized sweet (sic), feeling really bad for those kids in Attawapiskat #haha #terrible #inative," the tweet reads.

Kinew said Friday he was mocking himself over the privilege he was enjoying while other indigenous persons were suffering.

Selinger said using long-ago comments for political attacks is fair game. The NDP frequently highlights comments made by Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister — on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to an accusation the NDP was "feeble-minded" — dating back to the 1990s.

The difference, Selinger said, is that Kinew has said he's sorry and changed his ways.

"I've never heard an apology for (Pallister) on anything that he has ever done."