The recent boycott of Sun News reporters by the Liberal Leader’s Office raised the spectre of improper party control over media relations. But reactions have been mixed even among reporters, and most say the situation is too unique to have set any damaging precedent. “We think that all elected officials should talk to journalists. We don’t like when anyone is banned. There’s no policy, specifically, but because we represent journalists, we think talking to journalists is a good thing,” said Parliamentary Press Gallery president Laura Payton, a reporter for CBC News. “It was resolved before we could even meet on the issue. We were tweeting about it, for sure, and I think we were all unified on Twitter about it. Sun News didn’t get in touch with us at all to do anything,” she said. Sun News’ Ezra Levant’s now infamous Sept. 15 rant about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) appearance in a wedding party photo, kissing the bride—in which he insulted the Liberal leader’s parents, calling former PM Pierre Trudeau a “slut”—and Mr. Trudeau’s decision to boycott all Sun Media reporters, as a result, sparked a lot of discussion on social media, political programs, and columns. “Just to be clear. I think Sun should apologize for Levant’s foul rant. But I’m nervous about politicians boycotting media outlets,” tweeted National Post columnist Stephen Maher, a press gallery director, on Sept. 28. The Parliamentary Press Gallery doesn’t have an official policy or stance on political parties boycotting or banning news organizations that are members of the gallery. While members of the executive, including Ms. Payton, Mr. Maher and Jennifer Ditchburn, a Canadian Press reporter, tweeted out concerns about the Liberal decision, the press gallery didn’t officially issue a statement and the Parliamentary Press Gallery has no official policy on political parties boycotting media outlets. Mr. Levant is not a member of the press gallery but the Sun News Network has nine reporters in the gallery, including David Akin, Mark Dunn and Brian Lilley. Mr. Akin posed a question to Mr. Trudeau during a scrum on Sept. 24 but was ignored, as were questions from Sun News Toronto director Daniel Proussalidis at a later press conference with the Liberal leader in Oshawa, Ont. “I think it was properly worked out between the two parties. There wasn’t really a need for us to get involved, there wasn’t a request,” said Ms. Payton. Mr. Akin told The Hill Times everyone has the right to refuse to answer a question, whoever it’s posed by, and said he wasn’t expecting the gallery to consider the matter, “nor would I have thought it appropriate.” “Our job is to demand access and demand the right to ask. And that right was never in question, so far as I could tell,” said Mr. Akin in a Sept. 30 email. “I and the reporters in our bureau simply continued our work and we will continue to do so,” he wrote. Paul Adams, a former CBC reporter who’s now a professor with Carleton University’s school of journalism and communication and a columnist for iPolitics, said he thinks Mr. Trudeau was right to respond the way he did. “General conclusions” can’t be drawn from this particular incident, he said. “Enoch Powell, the British statesman, once said that a politician complaining about the press is like a sailor complaining about the sea—that it’s the condition of life you accept when you take on the profession, right. But it seems to me that this falls outside of that. This is not anything that you could describe as normal political discourse, it’s an extreme personal offense,” said Mr. Adams. “I don’t think Trudeau had many other weapons at his disposal and I think that he achieved kind of a reasonable aim, which was to have the network apologize even if Levant doesn’t have the decency to apologize himself,” he said. Mr. Adams said as Mr. Levant isn’t up on the Hill in scrums and doesn’t have Mr. Trudeau on his show, a boycott of just Mr. Levant would have been pointless. But he also said he would be “alert down the road” to parties using a similar tactic “in some less legitimate way if they didn’t like an editorial in the National Post or something.” Mr. Levant is “an extreme outlier,” he said, and he doesn’t think the press gallery needs to discuss implementing a policy in response to the issue. “Hard cases make bad law, and this is a hard case. This isn’t really the kind of thing that we have to deal with frequently in our political system. If we did, we’d have to think about how if every news organization out there had an Ezra Levant,” said Mr. Adams. Norman Spector, former chief of staff to Mr. Mulroney, said while he thinks Mr. Levant’s rant was “offensive,” the Liberals were wrong to issue a boycott of an entire news organization and said Mr. Trudeau should have “availed himself of other mechanisms to get retraction or an apology,” like raising the issue with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) or by filling a lawsuit against Sun News. “It’s dangerous for a free press for politicians to pressure the media in that way,” said Mr. Spector. “I worked for a premier and a prime minister. They’re never happy with the coverage they’re getting and they’re often offended by many things, but the idea of pressuring a media organization by threatening, by curtailing their access is extraordinary,” he said, adding there’s no “principled justification” for the Liberals to have boycotted Mr. Akin. Mr. Spector said when U.S. president Barack Obama tried to boycott Fox News, the White House Press Corps rose up to challenge him and pressured him until he backed down. The press gallery has an “obligation” to ensure its members are treated equally, he said. “We didn’t see that here. We saw some statements, some criticism of Trudeau on Twitter. But we, on the other hand, saw some journalists and pundits actually pile on Levant and Sun Media, effectively endorsing the boycott,” said Mr. Spector. “I think that the desire of some journalists and pundits to humiliate Levant and to strike a blow at Sun led some of them to lose sight of the larger principle of the need to protect the free press from this kind of political pressure and I just hope it’s not a precedent,” he said. Since its inception, Sun News has had a tumultuous relationship with the rest of Canada’s media landscape, and has been called “Fox News North.” The network is staffed by a number of former PMO staffers: Kory Teneycke, former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.), is vice-president; former PMO press secretary Sara MacIntyre is working part-time as a contributor; and former PMO issues adviser Matt Wolfe is the executive producer for prime time programming. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich’s daughter is a chase producer at the network. But Sun Media, which owns several newspapers, employs hundreds of people, many career journalists. Sun News did not respond to interview requests. There are numerous examples of reporters crossing over to work for parties, including for the Liberal leader, the NDP leader and in Mr. Harper’s PMO. Elly Alboim, a former CBC reporter who also previously worked for former Liberal PM Paul Martin and is now a principal at Earnscliffe Strategy group as well as a professor of journalism at Carleton University, said Mr. Levant’s comments were a “savage attack,” that went “beyond the pale.” Suing for libel would not have been “sufficient recourse,” he said. “It’s perfectly understandable that he reacted strongly. To say that he wouldn’t talk to Levant anymore accomplishes nothing,” said Mr. Alboim. Asked if the Liberal decision sets a bad precedent, Mr. Alboim said the circumstances are too unique. He said “a lot of current day” news organizations “happily blur the line between commentary and news,” and said this does “impact on reputation.” “An organization that cheerfully mixes all that up should be prepared to bear the consequences for it,” said Mr. Alboim. Andrew Mitrovica, a columnist for iPolitics who writes about media, also said he’s not concerned about a precedent. “My attitude towards all of this is to challenge the assumption that Sun News is a news organization, and whether or not Mr. Trudeau is in fact boycotting a news organization as opposed to the propaganda arm of the Conservative Party of Canada,” said Mr. Mitrovica. He said Sun reporters like Mr. Akin should “take a stand” and publicly “disavow” Mr. Levant’s comments as not constituting journalism. email@example.com The Hill Times Levant-Trudeau Timeline: Sept. 15: Sun News personality Ezra Levant, host of The Source, used his monologue to attack Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau over a photo put out by the party showing Mr. Trudeau kissing the cheek of a smiling bride on her wedding day, surrounded by her bridal party. Mr. Levant suggested Mr. Trudeau had forced himself on the wedding party in an effort to make himself look good, and slurred both Mr. Trudeau’s mother and father, including calling former PM Pierre Trudeau a “slut.” He also levelled criticism against members of the press gallery—singling out CBC reporter Hannah Thibedeau for referring to Mr. Trudeau as “vivacious” in a report about favourable poll results for the Liberals—and said “a lot of baby boomer journalists” think Trudeau is “sexy,” are in “love” with him, and wish he’d kiss them. Sept. 21: Mr. Levant doubled down on his comments by penning a column titled, “Trudeau’s photobomb simply bombs.” Sept. 23: Mr. Trudeau’s office issued a statement indicating that Mr. Levant’s segment had “crossed the line by airing a personal attack,” and “breached any reasonable measure of editorial integrity.” “Until the company resolves the matter, the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau will continue to not engage with Sun Media,” read the statement, which also indicated the issue had been raised with both people at Québécor—Sun’s parent company—and with the Sun News Network. Sept. 24: The father-in-law of the bride in the photo, Glenn O’Neill, wrote a Facebook post in response to the story, and wrote that Mr. Levant “couldn’t be farther from the truth on the events leading up to and during that photo.” He said the bride and her family were thrilled with the picture. Sept. 28: CTV Parliamentary bureau chief Bob Fife tweeted that former PM Brian Mulroney, chairman of Québécor’s board of directors, had called the Liberals to indicate Sun Media would be apologizing for the rant. Mr. Fife also tweeted that Liberals said that even with an apology, Mr. Trudeau may ban Sun from the campaign plane “until Tory editorial links cut.” Sept. 29: Sun News aired an apology. The apology was written out in text and read by a narrator—not Mr. Levant—before the beginning of Mr. Levant’s show. “It is the view of Sun News that this segment was in poor taste and should not have been aired. We understand why many viewers found both the content and language of this segment to be offensive,” said the statement. “We apologize to Mr. Trudeau, his family and to our viewers.” Mr. Trudeau’s office issued a statement accepting the apology. “We look forward to Sun News journalists resuming participation in Mr. Trudeau’s press conferences,” read the Liberal statement.