Halifax police investigate after a TV reporter was heckled with a crude phrase
Several journalists expressed support for Heather Butts, highlighting a wider problem of harassment of female broadcast reporters and videographers
Heather ButtsHeather Butts/Facebook Adina Bresge
December 31, 2017
4:25 PM EST
January 1, 2018
4:20 PM EST
Share this storyHalifax police investigate after a TV reporter was heckled with a crude phrase
HALIFAX — Police say they are investigating after a TV journalist was heckled with a misogynist taunt while reporting live from a Halifax bar.
CTV Atlantic reporter Heather Butts told her Twitter followers she was fine on Friday after an “offensive” phrase was hurled at her during the station’s 6 p.m. broadcast.
Butts was doing a live hit from the Pint Public House in Halifax where fans were watching a world junior hockey championship game when the incident occurred.
A recording shows a man who approaches Butts and appears to make a crude gesture while calling out a sexually explicit phrase.
Butts turned around and continued her report without acknowledging the comment, and later anchored the station’s news show at 11:30 p.m.
“During a live hit at a local bar tonight, something offensive was said to me and it went on the air,” she said on Twitter on Friday evening.
“I want everyone to know that I am fine and I thank you all for your support. I will be pursuing this further.”
Staff Sgt. Greg Mason of Halifax Regional Police said officers have followed up on a complaint regarding the broadcast and are waiting to hear if the complainant wants to proceed with the investigation.
During a live hit at a local bar tonight, something offensive was said to me and it went on the air. I want everyone to know that I am fine and I thank you all for your support. I will be pursuing this further.
— Heather Butts ()
“We’ve spoken to all the people who appear to be involved right now, other than the individual that made the comment,” Mason said on Saturday.
Officers have been working to identify the man who interrupted Butts’ report, said Mason, adding he could face a mischief charge.
Butts turned down an interview request on Saturday, and CTV Atlantic’s news director declined to comment other than to say the station is pursuing the matter with police.
Several journalists have expressed support for Butts, saying the incident represents a broader problem of harassment of female broadcast reporters and videographers, sometimes involving a graphic phrase.
The New York Press Club, a U.S.-based association of journalists, tweeted that it was “appalled” by the incident, adding that no journalist should be attacked while doing their job.
“Congratulations on intimidating a professional and embarrassing your family and yourself,” CTV News host Jayson Clay Baxter tweeted about the man involved.
“Why does this continue to happen?”
CBC Nova Scotia reporter Marina von Stackelberg said she experienced a similar form of harassment a few weeks ago while she was working on a story in Dartmouth, when in the middle of an interview, a heckler shouted an obscenity from his car and drove away.
“I think it completely throws you off, and you do your best to just kind of refocus and do your job the way you’re trying to do your job,” von Stackelberg said in an interview on Saturday.
“When I got back into the car to drive home, I was angry and frustrated and flustered, because it’s hard not to be bothered by something like that.”
She said it was the second time she had been hit with the sexist slur, and it’s an experience that’s become all too common for female broadcast journalists.
In November, an American man was charged with causing a disturbance after yelling a vulgar phrase at CHCH reporter Britt Dixon while she was interviewing a Hamilton police officer.
When I got back into the car to drive home, I was angry and frustrated and flustered, because it's hard not to be bothered by something like that
Dixon said it was the third time that had happened to her over the course of four days.
In August, police charged a Newfoundland man with causing a disturbance after he yelled the phrase at a reporter. Police laid a mischief charge against another Newfoundland man who yelled the same thing toward a journalist in April.
A Toronto FC soccer fan shouted the phrase during an interview with CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt in 2015.
Another man laughed, dismissing the comment as a joke, and was fired by Hydro One after the station aired the video. He was later rehired as part of an arbitration process, Hydro One said at the time.