Former co-hosts of Toronto Q107 morning man John Derringer are accusing him of workplace harassment and alleging that station owner Corus Entertainment allowed the behaviour to remain unchecked for years.
On social media, and in interviews with the Star, four former co-hosts have described a pattern of belligerent, abusive behaviour, with Derringer flying into a rage during commercial breaks or in front of as many as 20 staffers, dressing down female co-hosts and colleagues at the popular station. The former co-hosts said they complained to station managers and HR personnel to no avail.
One long-time co-host at the classic rock morning show, Maureen Holloway, said Corus management convinced people to endure this behaviour by paying what staff secretly referred to as “Derringer money” — raises and bonuses so they kept quiet and stayed.
Effective Tuesday morning, Corus Entertainment has taken Derringer and his show — Derringer in the Morning — off the air pending an investigation. Corus has hired Rachel Turnpenny from Turnpenney Milne LLP to conduct an “external investigation.”
Derringer could not be reached for comment. The Star has sent Corus and Derringer detailed questions about allegations raised by the four former co-hosts. A Corus spokesperson said they cannot comment on specifics due to the ongoing investigation.
The Corus spokesperson said that this past weekend, “new information about workplace concerns” came to their attention. Those have been referred to the external investigator, said Melissa Eckersley of Corus.
“Any concerns involving employee experience are of the utmost importance to us and we are committed to listen, learn and take any appropriate action. Out of respect for confidentiality and privacy of those involved and the formal processes underway, we will not comment on specific details,” Eckersley said.
Tuesday, on social media and at least one Toronto radio show, reference was made to the developing scandal that came in response to a video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday morning by longtime TV host Jennifer Valentyne, who said she had registered a complaint of gender discrimination with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
That posting by Valentyne prompted current and former radio personalities to take to social media and the airwaves to say that allegations of abusive behaviour by Derringer were an open secret in the Toronto radio scene for years.
Valentyne co-hosted Derringer in the Morning from 2017 to 2019.
In her video, Valentyne spoke of taking a “dream job” as a radio host, but she ended up working for up to four hours a day in an unventilated space where other people were vaping, something she strongly objected to. Despite her complaints (she lost her mother to cancer at 19 and had always avoided smoking) nothing was done. She said during her time at the station she experienced emotional abuse. In her video, she does not identify Derringer or Corus Entertainment, but has confirmed to the Star and other media that she was referring to Derringer and to Corus in her video.
Valentyne says in her video:
“What would you do if a co-worker screamed at you, belittled you, called you names, shut you out, brought you to tears, and then laughed when he told you to cry all you want? That he didn’t feel one bit sorry for you, and let you know with utter conviction that if you went to HR, they would choose him?”
Valentyne says she reached out to her employers for help and was told she needed to handle it herself. She was eventually moved into a TV job at Global News, where she would be laid off in the summer of 2020.
Valentyne said the onslaught of abuse during her radio job got so bad that “sometimes during songs I would cry in the washroom. I would walk into the studio mere minutes before we started to avoid breathing in the smoky air even one more second than I had to,” she said in the video. She said the incident was part of a larger issue of gender discrimination in media, in which women are judged on their looks and their age, and discouraged from speaking out.
“There are good times and there are not so good times; times you don’t talk about because as a woman you want to keep your job,” she said. “But sometimes enough is enough.”
Reflecting on the outpouring of support since she posted her video, Valentyne said many people have come forward to share their experiences. She said there was no specific reason for her to speak out at this time.
“This has been living inside of me for a very long time and it needed to come out at some point,” she wrote. “I can’t explain it. It seemed like the right time.”
The Corus spokesperson, in a response to questions by the Star about Valentyne’s allegations, did confirm that a complaint had been made by her previously.
“A few years ago, Ms. Valentyne shared certain concerns and we took action to review at that time. There is also a process underway with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. We have had mediated conversations with her, been responsive to proceedings, and we are waiting determination of next steps. We take these matters seriously and look forward to a resolution,” said the Corus spokesperson.
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After Valentyne posted her video, other former co-hosts voiced their support for Valentyne. The Star has interviewed three of them.
Holloway was a co-host on Derringer in the Morning from 2010 to 2015. In an interview with the Star she said that in the beginning, she and Derringer had “great chemistry.” The show has at times been a solo effort by Derringer, and other times he has a co-host, and a weather person. Holloway said that soon after her arrival as co-host she noticed that, in her opinion, Derringer had an anger management issue. She said it was not just focused on women co-hosts. “He treated his own two (male) henchmen just as badly.”
It was on a location job they had in London, England that she experienced an outburst. She was doing entertainment “hits” for other Corus radio shows across Canada (part of her job) and she said he became enraged when she returned from recording one. “He screamed and berated me in front of 20 people,” she said, noting one was the program director.
Holloway went to see the general manager of Q107 when they returned to Canada. “I was terrified, I wanted to tell him this happened but I did not want it to get back to him because I thought I would be fired.”
Nothing happened after the complaint to the general manager.
Two years later, she recalls an equally strong outburst. Again, she said Derringer exploded because she had been recording in another Corus studio, as part of her contract. “He flew into a rage, said you owe everyone here an apology, he exhausted himself like a child, and I was crying, which I hate,” Holloway told the Star. Later, Derringer told Holloway he was sorry. She complained to the program manager and she said HR got involved. Holloway said she was offered an afternoon shift “and they were just doing that to shut me up.” During her five years working with Derringer she was offered bonuses — one time it was almost doubling her salary — and she said she believes this was for her to keep quiet about the verbal abuse. She eventually left the station.
Holloway, like the other co-hosts the Star spoke to, said she is used to working with tough colleagues and bosses, but Derringer was different. She and the two other former co-hosts the Star spoke to said they were told by senior staff at the station that Derringer was sent to anger management counselling on several occasions.
Jacqui Delaney was a co-host in 2002. She said she came from working in sports radio. “I have worked with some hard characters in radio,” she told the Star, but never anyone who she wanted to complain about. With Derringer, at first, she said they got along well. Then, one day, “he turned on me … he started screaming at me about some perceived infraction I had made.” She said Derringer got so close to her that his “spit” got on her face. She said this happened more than once and usually during a commercial break or while music was playing. She complained to a manager.
Delaney eventually left broadcasting and now works for the Senate of Canada.
Delaney said that she is hopeful that Corus will come forward and acknowledge it knew about allegations over the past two decades. “If this company does not come out and acknowledged that it knew, I am going to start naming names (of people she complained to at Corus).”
Andrea Rooz did traffic and some co-hosting duties in the early 2000s. She said she and Derringer also had great chemistry, until one day when she said Derringer got angry. The morning show involves spinning music — classic rock — and fun banter in between. Rooz said that, one morning on air, Derringer was talking about how he had quit smoking and he gave a laundry list of the perks, money he was saving and how much better he felt. Rooz said she commented on air, and in a joking fashion, that Derringer “smells better.” Derringer replied (she recalls), “Well, you don’t.”
During a commercial break, Rooz said Derringer turned to her in anger. “He screamed at me, ‘you useless piece of s—, nobody cares about your f—ing opinion, want to compare paycheques?’ ” recalled Rooz. “I was a puddle, I was hysterical, crying, I could not breathe, it was hard to do the next traffic report.”
Rooz said she went to HR and told them what happened. “HR told me, we think you should apologize to him.”
She said that her shift hours changed during this time — she was doing a split shift, which means early morning, a long break in between, then evenings on air. She said Corus offered her $1,000 extra pay, but she said the shift was not something she wanted. She said, in retrospect, that felt like “constructive dismissal.” She eventually left radio and now does voice work for companies.
Rooz and the other former co-hosts the Star interviewed say they are more upset with Corus than with Derringer.
“Everyone protected him,” said Rooz. “For management at Corus to say they did not know about this behaviour is ridiculous.”
Valentyne, whose posting of the video prompted others to come forward, told the Star that her complaint to the Human Rights Commission — the first few pages of which were viewed by the Star over FaceTime — alleges she was discriminated against on the basis of sex. First filed in the fall of 2020, it names Global News and Q107, both owned by Corus Entertainment.
Now, she says, the complaint will be investigated before the commission decides if it will go forward to a tribunal.
Perhaps the most shocking thing since going public, she says, was how many women had similar experiences: “I had no idea that there were so many other women that have suffered so deeply in silence,” she said. While Corus is now investigating, she questions why so many people had to endure a toxic workplace before the media giant took action.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or email@example.com
Alex Boyd is a Calgary-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_n_boyd
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