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JOHN DeMONT: Cautionary tale of a fall from grace for Cyril Lunney

Former CTV personality Cyril Lunney
Former CTV personality Cyril Lunney - Contributed

I spent Wednesday looking for Cyril Lunney, the long-time co-host of Halifax’s TV Breakfast Television whose smiling visage is no longer visible anywhere on the network’s website.

But since his termination Friday, Lunney seems to have gone to ground.

His Facebook and Twitter accounts have been deactivated. Even with the help of a resourceful colleague I couldn’t find a telephone number for him.

I drove out to a house that Lunney is on record as owning, where I knocked on the door and rang the bell to no avail.

When I was nearly back out on the street, a woman stuck her head out of the door and asked if she could help me.

When I asked if that was Cyril Lunney’s place she said, “No one with that name lives here.”

Which, given the events of the past few days could well be true, even if, until recently, that was where the married father of three actually laid his head.

You may have read all about it on social media, where a series of screenshots of email exchanges between Lunney and a woman from Halifax named Jennifer Jones have been making the rounds.

The facts, I feel with certainty, are these: recently the folks at Bell Media, the owner of CTV, noticed some posts on the CTV Facebook page from a woman announcing that if you wanted to see Lunney’s genitalia all you had to do was inbox her, since he had sent her a few, what in the parlance of the day, are known as “dick pics.”

At first, the network took the side of Lunney who claimed it was a simple case of blackmail, and that the male junk in the photo wasn’t even his.

Then they started, and I am sorry for this, looking more closely at the exchanges between the pair.

From their point of view, what the network saw was worrisome.

One of the emails — which ends with Lunney’s words “... and kids go missing all the time” — could be interpreted as a threat against her child.

Another alleged Lunney email says, “be careful Jennifer you have no idea the powerful people I know.”

In yet another, when he asks her to “please leave me alone,” Jones replies, “No police are now involved.”

To which Lunney allegedly countered, “That’s great because the new police chief is a very very good friend of mine.”

For the record, when I called the Halifax regional police department Wednesday, a spokesman said that new chief Dan Kinsella, who moved here from Hamilton, Ont., has never met Lunney

When I asked CTV about what happened to their long-time employee, director of communications Emily Young Lee sent a one-line email, “Cyril Lunney is no longer with Bell Media.”

My understanding is that once the alleged threats were uncovered the network acted quickly, frog-marching him out of the building on Friday.

Immediately afterward Lunney’s cherubic, bearded face disappeared from the CTV website in much the matter that Soviet apparatchiks disappeared from official photographs during Stalin’s great purge.

It is in so many ways a cautionary tale.

For starters, Lunney’s fall from grace seems to prove once again something fundamental about the time in which we live.

“One can no longer assume with confidence,” says David Fraser, a Halifax lawyer specializing in privacy issues, “that something you say or do will not end up in a newspaper or in a social media post.”

A lot of conversations that used to take place in person now occur over the phone, via text or on social media. Fraser says that every one of those communications leaves a record in three places: with you, with the person on the other end of the communication and on a cloud server.

“We have gone, from a privacy point of view, from being worried about Big Brother, to being worried about Little Brother, by which we mean everyone else,” Fraser said Wednesday.

Then there is the question of power imbalance, which used to be about people with power exploiting those with none.

Now social media has become what Fraser calls a “neutrality tool.” By that he means that, with the “fabricated intimacy” of social media, ordinary folks have more interaction with so-called celebrities.

In other words, in the #MeToo era, things have evened out.

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