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TVO host Steve Paikin denies sexual harassment allegation made by Sarah Thomson

“To say I was gobsmacked by the allegations in her email is the understatement of my life,” Paikin wrote in an extensive statement on Facebook.

Steve Paikin, the host of TVO's flagship current affairs program The Agenda. Paikin has denied an allegation made by former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson that he asked her to sleep with him during the 2010 mayoral campaign.

Matthew Plexman / TVO

Steve Paikin, the host of TVO's flagship current affairs program The Agenda. Paikin has denied an allegation made by former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson that he asked her to sleep with him during the 2010 mayoral campaign.

TVO host Steve Paikin fired back Tuesday and denied an allegation made by Sarah Thomson that he asked her to sleep with him during her 2010 mayoral campaign.

“To say I was gobsmacked by the allegations in her email is the understatement of my life,” Paikin wrote in an extensive statement on Facebook, referring to an email Thomson sent to him on Saturday, outlining her allegation.

“I mean no harm to Sarah Thomson. But Sarah, you and I both know the incident you described never happened. It’s complete fiction. To be clear, I did not have sex, suggest, request, imply, or joke about having sex with you.”

Thomson wrote on her website Friday that during the 2010 mayoral campaign she and her executive assistant had lunch with the host of a political talk show to discuss another appearance. She had been on the show previously along with four other mayoral candidates.

Four people who worked or volunteered on her campaign, including Mayor John Tory’s sons George and John Jr. Tory, say they have no knowledge of such an incident occurring.

Thomson did not identify the host by name, but TVO confirmed she is referring to Paikin and TVO’s flagship program The Agenda.

“Not five minutes into the lunch, the host asked me if I would sleep with him,” Thomson wrote on Women’s Post, the website she publishes. “My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table.”

She said she “politely” declined his offer, then went to the washroom and called her campaign manager, who advised her to leave, which she did.

Thomson declined to comment. Before Paikin released his statement on Facebook, Thomson tweeted, “Women don’t come forward because they get attacked on social media. Did Paikin go public to scare other women from coming forward? Sad how easily he’s playing people.”

Hours later she tweeted, “It’s a bit scary the number of men that are bashing me today.”

In his Facebook post, Paikin said Thomson’s allegation is “complete fiction” and “prompted outrageous headlines and connected me to a story which I have no business being connected. Well that all ends today. Today, I begin to reclaim my reputation and fight back against these scurrilous allegations.”

Upon receiving the email from Thomson, Paikin said he passed it on to his superiors at TVO, even though “the allegations were 100 per cent false.”

On Sunday, Paikin said he spent two hours with TVO management and its lawyers “answering every imaginable question.”

A TVO official announced Monday that the station is launching an independent third-party investigation into a sexual misconduct allegation.

Paikin will continue to host The Agenda as “evidence to date” does not justify removing him pending the investigation outcome, said TVO CEO Lisa De Wilde in a statement.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Paikin said in his Facebook post. “(TVO) also did the right thing by calling in an independent third party to investigate this mess and I welcome the investigation. Bring it on!”

Paikin said the #MeToo movement is “too important to be undermined by spurious allegations. The only good thing about this has been receiving the huge number of emails and phone calls from people who believe me and are prepared to say so publically.”

He said after spending 35 years in journalism, “lies” have prompted “outrageous” headlines.

“Sadly, in this day and age, too many people are going to believe the lie, especially when it comes to this subject. I am mortified that in many peoples’ eyes, I have lost the presumption of innocence that I’ve previously enjoyed. But I did not do these things. There is simply no truth to these allegations.”

Paikin said he wrote his statement, independent from TVO and his lawyers, at 4 a.m. and that he’s had trouble sleeping since the allegation was made. He said he has known Thomson for almost a decade and seen her at various political events, but hasn’t had contact with her for several years.

“You’ve defamed me Sarah. I have no idea why, but you have. And I simply can’t allow that to stand. The quest to reclaim my reputation, which you’ve tried to destroy, begins now. I look forward to vindication.”

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