Patrick Brown held an emergency press conference Wednesday night to deny sexual misconduct allegations — and less than four hours later, he resigned as leader of the Progressive Conservative party.
At 9:45 p.m., Brown appeared before the media to read a brief statement in a shaky, emotional voice, denying all allegations against his conduct and his character, without naming what they are. He invoked the fact that he has sisters as a reason that his values are against sexual violence.
He responded to no questions from the press. Reporters chased him down three flights of stairs, out of the legislature and into a waiting car.
Moments after Brown's press conference, Brown's senior staff began to resign. Alykhan Velshi tweeted out a statement announcing that he and two other senior staffers had advised Brown to quit, but he would not, and as a result they resigned. Velshi had been Brown's chief of staff. Andrew Boddington, resigned as campaign manager and Dan Robertson resigned as deputy campaign manager for strategy.
— Alykhan Velshi (@avelshi) January 25, 2018
Brown's press secretary, Nick Bergamini, also resigned.
This evening I learned of allegations against Patrick Brown. As a result, it is in the best interest of the PC Party that he step down immediately.
As he has chosen to follow a different route, I am resigning as the PC Party Press Secretary.
— Nick Bergamini (@nickbergamini) January 25, 2018
Shortly before 1:30 a.m., the party released a statement from Brown announcing he would resign as leader but stay on as an MPP as he works to clear his name from the "false allegations."
“These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear. However, defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual," Brown said in the statement.
Deputy leaders MPP Sylvia Jones and MPP Steve Clark also released a statement, saying the caucus will "immediately consult with party officials and members on best way to move forward to defeat the Wynne Liberals in the 2018."
“This evening we learned of disturbing allegations levelled against Patrick Brown," they said. "In the interest of the Ontario PC Party we unanimously agree that Mr. Brown cannot continue serving as the Leader. Mr. Brown is entitled to a legal defense and due process, but he cannot lead us into an election as a result of these allegations. The Ontario PC Party unequivocally upholds the principle that a safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve. We need to move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province."
Earlier in the evening, CTV had promised a news story outlining the sexual misconduct allegations against Brown. That story had yet to air when Brown spoke.
EXCLUSIVE: Two women come forward with graphic sexual misconduct allegations against Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown. Allegations, which Brown denies, date back to when he was a federal MP. Watch @glen_mcgregor’s report tonight. #cdnpoli #onpoli
— CTV National News (@CTVNationalNews) January 25, 2018
CTV reported allegations from two women who both accused Brown of sexual assault or misconduct in his Barrie home after they, but not he, had been drinking.
One of the women was a high school student at the time, more than 10 years ago, when he met her at a bar, took her home and asked her to perform oral sex on him, CTV reported.
"He's an old, single, politician preying on young girls. He’s just a sad person," the woman, now 29-years old, told CTV.
The other woman worked for Brown when he was a member of Parliament. She accused him of sexually assaulting her at his home after a night out.
The statement Brown delivered follows in full:
"Ladies and gentlemen. A couple of hours ago, I learned of troubling allegations about my conduct and character. I’m here tonight to address them. First, I want to say these allegations are false. Categorically untrue. Every one of them. I will defend myself as hard as I can, with all the means at my disposal.
"It’s never OK for anyone to feel they have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way. Let me make this clear. A safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve.
"No one appreciates that more than I do, I've got two younger sisters who are my best friends, I grew up in a family that taught me values.
"My values and beliefs are those that we move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province – across the country. Everywhere. I know that the court of public opinion moves fast. I have instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in a court of law. In short, I reject these accusations in the strongest possible terms.
"It's not my values. It's not how I (was) raised. It's not who I am."
Watch a video of Brown's press conference here:
— Jessica Smith Cross (@jessiecatherine) January 25, 2018
The allegations come just over four months before the 2018 general election. The Progressive Conservatives are leading by a large margin in most polls.
Premier Kathleen Wynne made a brief statement on Twitter, commending the women for coming forward.
"It's a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done tonight. My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. In fact our policy and our ad were called 'It's Never Okay.' "
It's a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done tonight. My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. In fact our policy and our ad were called "It's Never Okay".
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) January 25, 2018
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath released a statement calling on Brown to resign.
“My thoughts are with the brave young women who have spoken out to describe horrible, degrading and unsafe experiences they say happened at the hands of Patrick Brown.
"I’m disgusted and disturbed by these sexual misconduct allegations.
"Patrick Brown must resign, immediately. He deserves his day in court, but no person can lead a political party in this province with allegations like these hanging over his head.”
PC MPP Sam Oosterhoff told QP Briefing he believes Brown should resign.
PC MPP Lisa MacLeod released a statement on Twitter, saying that the women who made the allegations "deserve our support and thanks."
"Everyone has the right to be free from unwelcome behaviour or advances. I do not and will not tolerate abuse or harassment, and I will do everything in my power to fight against it," she wrote. "My heart goes out to the women who have been impacted by this behaviour. It takes courage to come forward and make these claims."
Given the serious allegations raised this evening, I believe Patrick Brown should step down as leader of the Ontario PC Party. We cannot tolerate harassment or abuse. We must stand with and support these women. #pcpo #onpoli
— Ben Levitt (@BenLevitt2018) January 25, 2018
2/2 As a woman and a lawyer, I have full faith in our justice system and our police force. I believe that these very serious allegations must be fully investigated, #onpoli
— Goldie Ghamari ?? (@gghamari) January 25, 2018
— Caroline Mulroney (@C_Mulroney) January 25, 2018
-With files from David Hains