Fox News mocks Canadian military

KATHLEEN HARRIS, NATIONAL BUREAU CHIEF

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The American talk show host who sparked national outrage with a satirical segment trashing Canada's military has apologized for remarks he says were "misunderstood."

But it wasn't enough to calm the storm of controversy.

One of Greg Gutfeld's fellow panellists on Fox News' Red Eye show, Doug Benson, was barred from scheduled acts at an Edmonton comedy club after the manager received threats of violence against Benson.

And the Royal Canadian Legion, representing thousands of war veterans and serving soldiers, insists the lukewarm apology isn't enough to make amends.

"I realize my words may have been misunderstood. It was not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military, and for that I apologize," Gutfeld said in a written statement.

Describing Red Eye as a "satirical take" on the news where all topics are treated in a "lighthearted, humorous and ridiculous manner," Gutfeld insisted the Mar. 17 episode was not an attempt to make light of Canadian military efforts.

In the five-minute segment, panellists took turns mocking Canadian soldiers, suggesting they want a break from duty to get "manicures and pedicures," to practise yoga and to prance around in "gorgeous white capris." The piece aired after Canadian Forces army chief Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie told a Senate committee troops may need a year to recover from the gruelling Afghan mission when it winds down in 2011.

The segment drew wider attention after it was posted on YouTube, and after four more Canadian soldiers were killed in the line of duty.

Benson, who laughed during the piece that he didn't even know Canada is serving in Afghanistan, was scheduled to appear at Edmonton's The Comic Strip April 3-5. But the shows were cancelled yesterday after the owner received threats of "bodily injury" toward the American comic.

"Some were saying he wouldn't make it from the airport to the club. For everyone's safety, we decided it was best to avoid the scenario altogether," Rick Bronson said.

Calling the segment "crass" and "insensitive," Defence Minister Peter MacKay said American officials and most citizens are extremely grateful and respectful of Canada's contribution in Afghanistan and that the show represents a narrow, off-side opinion. His department contacted Fox News seeking an apology.

But Bob Butt, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Legion, said Gutfeld's statement is not enough. A letter-writing campaign is underway urging a more formal response from network executives and an on-air apology from the host.

"We don't think insulting the families of those who have passed on while doing their duty is quite right," he said.

KATHLEEN.HARRIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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