BROOKE GLADSTONE: Everybody understands that politicians when they make their pronouncements are often mouthing the ideas and sometimes even the exact words of their aides. Well, this process can also work in reverse. In Vancouver, Canada on March 17th a radio interview scheduled with Parliament Member Rahim Jaffer took a surprising turn on a nationally syndicated program called Warren on the Weekend.
BOB GARFIELD:Joining us by phone is the host of Warren on the Weekend, Peter Warren, and from a studio somewhere in the wilds of British Columbia, the show's producer, Shannon Gunning. Shannon and Peter, welcome to OTM!
PETER WARREN: Thank you so much!
SHANNON GUNNING: Thanks, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: This is an amazing story. It began with an interview you had scheduled with a Member of Parliament for the Edmonton area. What exactly transpired that day?
SHANNON GUNNING: Well, Rahim Jaffer or what we thought was Rahim Jaffer called to do the interview. About 15 minutes into the interview about prescription drugs we had a listener call us from his home, Riding [sp?], in Edmonton, claiming that the man on air with this was not Rahim Jaffer. It was in fact his executive assistant. We were a little bit confused, obviously. We went on the line and asked the person on air with us are you Rahim Jaffer, and he joked and laughed and said yes, of course I am.
BOB GARFIELD: Did you confront him live during the broadcast?
SHANNON GUNNING:I actually didn't confront him live, because we weren't sure if the person who had called us was serious or what she was about, and so during a break I got on his line and asked him off the air.
BOB GARFIELD: And he said why, of course I am.
SHANNON GUNNING:Well, he laughed a little bit and said yeah, of course I'm Rahim Jaffer! And I had a little bit of a chuckle as well. Now this person called back about 5 minutes later -- this caller from Edmonton -- and insisted, again, that is not Rahim Jaffer! I know Rahim Jaffer quite well. We're friends. That person on the line with you is Matthew Johnston [sp?], his executive assistant.
BOB GARFIELD:This is amazing. Now be--before the phone calls came in, was there anything about the interview that made you suspicious about this supposed Mr. Jaffer? Was there a funny little feeling in the pit of your stomach at any point? Peter?
PETER WARREN: Well, Bob not really because the guy was fully versed and has probably written Rahim Jaffer's speeches on the subject.
BOB GARFIELD: You have a little bit of tape from phone calls that Mr. Johnston/Mr. Jaffer made to you before the broadcast even began.
SHANNON GUNNING: Two messages had been left, both of them left before the interview began -- about 10 minutes apart. But they were very clearly left by the same person.
MATTHEW JOHNSTON: Hi, Shannon. It's Matthew Johnston, executive assistant to Member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer. Just trying to touch, touch base --make sure this line is working for Rahim's 2 o'clock interview.
MATTHEW JOHNSTON: Hi, Shannon. It's Rahim Jaffer calling. Just wanted to-- just confirm our 2 o'clock radio interview.
SHANNON GUNNING: After we heard the voice mails we were very suspicious. We ran them by about six colleagues. They all said well that's the same guy! I had a number for the real Rahim Jaffer, and I said to him did you do an interview with us 40 minutes ago? And he said yes, yes I did. I was happy to do it. I said well you sound a little different. He said well that's because I'm on a different phone; it's a noisy cafe. When I asked him to explain the two voice mails, he said he left both voice mails, but in the first one he must have been confused and frazzled and accidentally identified himself as his executive assistant, Matt Johnston. [LAUGHTER]
BOB GARFIELD: Now this is all very amusing, but the incident is having some rather serious repercussions, isn't it?
PETER WARREN:Well first of all the exec resigned. We let them stew on it -- Shannon and myself -- over Saturday night, and then Sunday they both apologized on tape which we subsequently played on air, and then very, very quickly the leader of the Canadian Alliance Party learned number one that the exec had resigned on the spot, and number two demoted the Member of Parliament to the back benches.
BOB GARFIELD:Now Mr. Jaffer went before the Parliament and gave a rather impassioned appeal for forgiveness and of course with it an apology. Let's listen to that.
RAHIM JAFFER: I've already apologized to Peter Warren, the host of the show and to all of his listeners across Canada. And today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer to you, as the speaker of this legislature and my friend my apologies for not living up to the standards of this House.
BOB GARFIELD: This is an extraordinary incident, Peter, but-- not unprecedented! Is that right?
PETER WARREN:Not unprecedented, we discover, Bob because very, very quickly after the news had flashed across the country, we received a call from BBC International in London, England and I did a live hookup with them, and I wondered why their interest, and apparently an identical incident happened with the BBC and a British Parliamentarian about a year ago.
BOB GARFIELD: I don't know if it makes for good government but it clearly makes for good radio, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
PETER WARREN: [LAUGHS] Thanks Bob.
SHANNON GUNNING: Thanks Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Well and actually the joke's on you because--I'm really Brooke Gladstone.
PETER WARREN: No, I'm Muhammad Ali.
BOB GARFIELD: Peter Warren is the host of Warren on the Weekend and Shannon Gunning is the show's producer.