After candidate resigns over troubling posts, Coderre calls it a case of trolls spreading 'trash'
After one of his candidates stepped down Tuesday, Montreal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre said the man had fallen prey to a case of online bullying, saying "some troll" had made life unbearable for his family.
The candidate, Université de Montreal lecturer Dan Kraft, was running for Ensemble Montreal in Outremont when comments he made on a longstanding blog came to light, including blaming Muslims for terrorism and calling George Floyd a "delinquent."
The person who made his posts public this week is also a professor, at Concordia, with another professor adding that she and others had tried to bring Kraft's views to the party's attention.
But Coderre spoke at length to condemn those involved, equating the situation with the social media vitriol that has led several Quebec politicians to step away from public life, saying they were exhausted.
"There's some troll who was playing with that," Coderre said in the wake of Kraft's resignation.
"His family is suffering and they're crying."
Later, he said "Dan is an amazing person, he's an academic, and it's too bad that some people, just during a campaign, [are] throwing mud."
Kraft resigned of his own accord two days after Ted Rutland, who teaches at Concordia, posted a series of tweets with translated excerpts from Kraft's blog.
Dan Kraft, one of @EnsembleMtl's star candidates, has been criticized for his Facebook posts that deny climate change and racial discrimination. He also has a blog, where he has commented in Portuguese on various social issues since 2013. A friend translated some key posts. 1/6— Ted Rutland (@TedRutland) October 24, 2021
TAKING IT IN CONTEXT
Kraft immigrated from Brazil and had kept the blog since 2013. The man who originally found and read it earlier this month told CTV News that Kraft made it invitation-only on Sunday, the day Rutland tweeted about it, which can make it hard to now read the full posts.
The man who did the original translation isn't a voter in Outremont, where Kraft was running. But he happens to speak Portuguese and is interested in Brazilian politics, as well as Montreal politics, so he skimmed through the blog, he said.
He had also seen on Kraft's LinkedIn that he said he was working with a high-profile Brazilian figure connected to right-wing Jair Bolsonaro's government.
Ninety per cent of the blog was about Brazil, said the man, who didn't want his name published because he fears blowback in light of what's happened since the weekend.
He took note, however, of a few posts strayed into new topics -- the same posts that Rutland tweeted about, and especially the one about George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck in 2020, sparking the widespread Black Lives Matter protests.
"He lived like a delinquent and died like a delinquent," Rutland quoted Kraft as writing about Floyd.
"I don't think Floyd deserves any flowers from me for becoming a victim of a violent police officer ... I prefer to honour innocent people," the translation continued.
Coderre especially took issue with this, saying "maybe we should read all the text" and suggesting Rutland took it out of context.
However, on Twitter, Rutland also included the link to that post, which does allow the reader to see the full text in its original Portuguese, and to translate it through an online tool like Google Translate.
Rutland's translation appears accurate, though Kraft did write much more in the post about his support overall for Black Lives Matter and said that Floyd deserved to be "tried and imprisoned for his crimes" through the justice system, like everyone else.
He did say he wanted to save his sympathy for the innocent, including, he said, "Palestinian children indoctrinated by their radical parents to live in hatred and poverty."
The man who brought it to Rutland's attention said he thought it was a slightly more nuanced view, but it boils down to "Floyd doesn't deserve my sympathy but the Black [rights] movement deserves support."
What bothered that man more was Kraft's posts about Muslims, he said, including one after the Nice terror attack in which he said that "all terrorists in France are Muslim, without exception."
The man noted, he said, that while Kraft often struck a reasonable if "neoliberal" tone, "whenever it comes to Islam, he kind of loses his composure."
A PREVIOUS APOLOGY
Sarah Dorner, who teaches at Polytechnique Montréal, also wrote on Twitter that she and other residents had tried to warn Coderre not to add Kraft to his slate of candidates.
We saw. We knew. We gave @EnsembleMtl ample warning before candidate deadlines. If you look at the writing of Marc Poulin (former CEO of Sobey's Canada) who orchestrated the alliance, it's all consistent with the values expressed by their party. https://t.co/FltmnrX2SW— Sarah Dorner (@sarahdorner) October 24, 2021
Earlier in October, Kraft's social media activity was already covered by Quebec media, including a Radio-Canada piece pointing out a series of climate-denialist Facebook posts and others about race.
Coderre said at the time that while he was not happy with Kraft's comments, was keeping him on the slate but that if he stepped out of line again, he'd get no more chances.
"These publications by the Outremont candidate in no way reflect the values of Ensemble Montréal," the party wrote in a statement at the time.
"We have taken note of his apologies, that he has withdrawn his remarks, and are now ready to move on."
Coderre changed his approach on Tuesday, saying that the criticism of Kraft was the same as all kinds of social-media trolling that has made life harder for politicians.
"It's tough in politics, especially... you know, I remember that [Quebec City's mayor] and some of the current mayors, like in Verdun and some others, [are] not running again because of that kind of trash," Coderre said.
Kraft also said Tuesday that he'd been the victim of a targeted attack.
“My involvement has always been sincere, but my political adventure stops right away because of a smear campaign against me,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Rutland, for his part, told CTV that he saw Coderre's comments about "trash" and "some troll" and "wasn't sure whom he was referring to," he said.
"There are many, many people who have raised concerns about Dan Kraft since this summer."
He also said that all he did was publicly air things Kraft himself had written, and if Coderre considers that to be "trash," he should ask himself why.
The man who found the blog in the first place said he wishes Kraft had just taken the criticism more constructively. After all, there was almost no interaction on his blog -- it was more like an "online diary," he said.
"I wish he would have just apologized. That's way better than what he did. People can change," said the man.