Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon is suing women who accused him of sexual assault

THE CANADIAN PRESS Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL -- Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon is suing hosts Julie Snyder and Penelope McQuade $450,000 for defamation after they described him as a sexual predator on television.

The ex-producer is criticizing them for a series of comments they made during the Sept. 29 program "La Semaine des 4 Julie" hosted by Snyder.

In his suit, Rozon is denouncing false remarks, with an "incendiary and accusatory character made with the aim of harming him."

Rozon's public relations officer says the proceedings were filed Thursday afternoon at the Montreal courthouse.

The company "Productions La Lune", which produces among other things the variety show "La Semaine des 4 Julie", is also named.

McQuade is one of the women who accused Rozon of sexual assault, as was Snyder. The two claim to have filed a complaint with the police against him.

According to what is alleged in the proceedings, on Sept. 29, Snyder interviewed McQuade and discussed an article where McQuade referenced the book "Libérer la colère (Release the Anger)," published in 2018.

They discussed what happened to them on the show, and Snyder thanked McQuade for giving her the courage to speak out. Snyder states in particular that Rozon assaulted her in her sleep, in Paris, more than 20 years ago.

On the air, the host also explained that she wanted to respond to a statement made in Feb. 2018 by Rozon in court.

He said at the time: "I have never made love to someone if a person tells me no."

Snyder explained that she couldn't say "no" that night as she was sleeping, and he didn't ask her if she consented.

Snyder reiterated her story, and added others, during the program "Le Québec maintenant", hosted by Patrick Lagacé, the next day.

In addition, the comments in question were posted on their Instagram and Facebook pages, and were subsequently repeated in several newspaper articles and other publications, it is alleged in the lawsuit.

Rozon denies everything: he claims not to have assaulted McQuade or Snyder.

Their remarks are "defamatory and malicious", argues Rozon, adding that the two hosts used their fame to attack him in "a planned, orchestrated and staged attack."

"Obviously, the main objective of the process was to discredit the plaintiff in the eyes of the public, less than two weeks before the holding of the criminal trial where he must defend himself from allegations of sexual assault," the action reads.

Rozon will face a criminal trial next week for rape and indecent assault on a woman whose identity has not been disclosed - and cannot be.

He accuses the two women of having intentionally harmed him and of creating in the public mind a feeling of contempt and distrust "towards him, which has the consequence of discrediting him, of condemning him to public disgrace and of making it practically impossible to continue his professional activities."

"Not to mention the fact that these words were broadcast widely," he said.

JULIE SNYDER'S REPLY

The producer and host considers the defamation lawsuit Rozon filed to be an act of intimidation.

"If I had to explain why I have been silent for years, the best proof is this lawsuit which aims precisely to silence me," she wrote in a statement sent Thursday evening.

"I was afraid to confront him for years. My approach is part of my therapeutic process," she continued.

She restated that she denounced the assault to the police in 2017 - which was reported by the media at the time - and adds that he did not act at that time.

"Suddenly, on the eve of his trial for rape and indecent assault, Gilbert Rozon continues his acts of aggression by initiating a lawsuit which is also a form of intimidation," said Snyder.

REQUEST FOR RETRACTION

Rozon maintains that he asked Snyder and McQuade to retract their statements on Oct. 1.

He left them 48 hours to do so, issuing an "explicit and unambiguous" news release acknowledging that they had not been attacked by Rozon as they had suggested or asserted.

They did not respond to this request.

Rozon is thus claiming $250,000 in moral damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

He is also asking the court to order the two women to retract their statements - dictating the text he wants to see published - including that he has never sexually assaulted them and has had no sexual relationship or inappropriate behavoir with either woman.

The suit also requires that they apologize for the inconvenience that they caused him.

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