Listeners who heard Greg Brady’s morning show before Oct. 7, 2023 might not recognize it today. 

Over the last eight months, the Toronto radio host has gone from offering relatively balanced views about pro-Palestine protesters to railing against them, calling them “race-baiters” and “agitators” on social media, and sharing takes from aggressively pro-Israel voices in Canada and around the world. 

Among Canadian talk radio personalities, Brady is not alone. He joins radio hosts at 640 Toronto and elsewhere who, since October 7, have handed their mics to Israeli soldiers, blamed Palestinians for their own suffering, fear-mongered about immigrants and allowed guests to tell outright falsehoods

These hosts have horrified their own colleagues and some members of the public. But advocates say there are virtually no tools to hold them accountable because of their status as “commentators” rather than journalists.

At 640 Toronto, Brady’s shift has been dramatic. On October 10, during his first broadcast after the Hamas-led attack of October 7, Brady referenced the “brutality at times” in regards to Israel’s violence in Gaza, and came to the defence of pro-Palestine protesters. 

While some demonstrators may have celebrated Hamas’ violence, Brady argued, others were simply supporting “Palestinian independence.” Similarly, he said, some at a pro-Israel rally may have attended to show their opposition to violence against civilians, while others may have wanted Gaza to be “bombed back to the stone age.” His stance was clear: “We have to allow freedom of assembly and [the] right to protest.”

Within a few months, this began to change. This year, Brady called certain demonstrations against Israel’s violence “ridiculous,” arguing they have nothing to do with holding Israel accountable, and implying that protesters were targeting Jewish people rather than institutions and businesses connected to the Israeli state.

He complained that the word genocide has “lost all meaning” now that it’s been applied to Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, which to date has killed at least 37,953 Palestinians. Israel is currently on trial for genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On social media, Brady uses even harsher language. In February, he referred to pro-Palestinian demonstrators as “agitators” and “race-baiters.” In June, he responded to a protest action in New York City by tweeting: “No take is worth listening to on this stuff except [sic] it’s domestic terrorism. Who commits terror? Terrorists do.”

He also recently shared a June 10 post that called for “extreme violence” to be used to free hostages and that dismissed critics as “stupid fucking antisemitic wanker[s] […] on the side of Palestinian rapists.”

Brady did not respond to a request for comment.

At Corus Entertainment, the $1.5-billion company that owns 640 Toronto and Global News, content created by Brady and his radio colleagues has resulted in tensions between the talk radio department and the newsroom.

Multiple employees have verbally complained about the rhetoric pushed by Brady, his fellow 640 Toronto host Alex Pierson, and their guests, according to current and former staff members who spoke to The Maple. The sources are not being identified by name in order to protect their current and future employment. 

But Corus management tells staff that talk radio shows are “infotainment” — not news — and therefore aren’t subject to journalistic principles like balance and fairness, two employees said. The Maple is not identifying these sources to protect their current and future employment.

On Brady’s show, the host’s shift in his descriptions of pro-Palestinian protests has coincided with a jump in ratings. While it’s unclear why exactly the ratings have received a boost, Brady’s recent takes do not appear to have hurt the show. This spring, he had the top AM morning show in Toronto.

Mike Bendixen, Corus’s director of talk radio, has made technical and formatting changes that have improved ratings, one current employee said. Before joining Corus, Bendixen  worked as a spokesperson for Anthony Furey, a candidate for Toronto mayor. 

Bendixen did not respond to a request for comment.

Corus did not answer specific questions sent by The Maple but provided a written statement. 

“At Corus, we are acutely aware of our responsibilities as a broadcaster and a member of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC). The goal of Corus’ talk radio programming is to keep Canadians informed through thought-provoking debates and differing perspectives on the stories our listeners are talking about,” spokesperson Rishma Govani said.

“Unlike a newscast, hosts or guests on a radio show offering social commentary are entitled to share opinions, criticisms, and thoughtful analysis on any topic of public interest. Balance is achieved in the overall body of work covering any subject matter and not based solely on any one interview or program.”

On another station, a talk radio guest was allowed to tell incendiary falsehoods about October 7, student protesters and the history of the Middle East for 20 minutes last month without any pushback.

“Happy first day of terrorist camp,” guest Dahlia Kurtz said on the Bell Media-owned Newstalk 610 on June 17. “It’s the first day of terrorist camp for kids in Montreal.” 

“It’s not a joke. Terrorist camp is actually happening. They’re going to teach our young people Arabic […] They’re going to be teaching them, I imagine, how to dig tunnels, how to use AK-47s.”

“It sounds funny,” she went on. “It sounds like I’m saying all of this in jest. But this is the reality.”

None of Kurtz’s remarks about the event were true. The event she was talking about was an educational program put on by student protesters at McGill University. 

The students did advertise the program with a historical photo of Palestinian fighters, one of whom was holding a gun. The actual program, however, was a series of history lessons about the Palestinian resistance. 

Kurtz is a vehemently pro-Israel social media personality, opinion writer and host of a show on Sirius XM. After her false remarks about the McGill event on Newstalk 610, she continued unchallenged by host Jon “Gonzo” Mark. 

She repeated a debunked claim that Hamas had beheaded and burned babies in ovens during the October 7 attack. She said that Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “hate Jewish people” and “the West.” She also falsely claimed that the people of Palestine never had a leader, and declared: “This is our country, and we need to take it back.”

Kurtz did not respond to a request for comment. 

Mark, the host, responded to a request for comment saying he was on vacation and could not respond in full. ​​

“My segment was focused on how Jews are feeling these days across our country which is a concern of the majority of Canadians. They are feeling threatened and unsafe,” he told The Maple. 

“Statements made by any guest are not necessarily mine and I’ll let Dahlia stand behind her own words; however saying that doesn’t mean they don’t get fact-checked beyond the interview. And that they will.”

After this story was published, the Kurtz interview segment was pulled from the Newstalk 610 website. Spokespeople for Bell Media, which owns the station, did not respond to The Maple’s initial questions. Nor did they respond to a follow-up email asking why the segment had been taken offline.

Segments like Kurtz’s are not uncommon on talk radio, according to Jason Toney, the director of media advocacy at Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME).

And “there’s been genocidal rhetoric on the radio in Canada most days since October 7,” he told The Maple in an interview. 

On one 640 Toronto show on October 13, for example, CJPME argued that a guest essentially advocated for war crimes. 

Pierson, one of the hosts who has been the subject of colleagues’ complaints at Corus, interviewed an Israeli-Canadian soldier named Noy Leyb. He said: “The only way to end this is if every single Hamas member is eliminated from Gaza.”

As CJPME explained in a written complaint to the station and the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council (CBSC), Hamas is more than a militant group in Gaza. It is a complete government, with members who provide non-political and non-military services such as health care and social support. 

“Hamas members include a wide variety of ordinary people — innocent civilians — in Gaza who have no ties to military activity whatsoever. Such a call on your show is dangerous, as it essentially amounts to advocating for war crimes,” CJPME’s complaint said. 

CJPME received a written response from Corus in December, which argued that the segment did not meet the CBSC’s threshold for abusive or discriminatory content. “​​We believe that it was abundantly clear our guest’s comments about Hamas were directed at those responsible for the current acts of terror, not innocent civilians,” the company said.

Toney from CJPME said that talk radio hosts also tell falsehoods with impunity. A newspaper, he explained, would add a correction to an article that included false information, even if it was opinion content. Talk radio hosts, on the other hand, are particularly resistant to correcting falsehoods.

“It’s not just that the rhetoric is genocidal — they can literally just tell any lie they want without consequence.”

On Pierson’s show, the false rumour that Hamas beheaded babies was repeated at least five times in the first week after October 7. The Israeli government has admitted the story was never true — but those segments remain on Global News’ website, Spotify and Apple Podcasts streams with no correction. 

Pierson has made other false, outlandish claims, and regularly stokes fears about domestic protests on social media.

She suggested on October 13 that chants by pro-Palestine demonstrators are more threatening to Jews in Canada than seeing someone wave a Nazi flag. On October 16, she pushed the claim that the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is a call to kill all Jews in Israel. The chant calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and for equal freedoms for Palestinians. 

Pierson did not respond to The Maple’s request for comment. 

Another problem, said Toney, is that these shows are marketed in similar ways to news broadcasts, so listeners may believe the hosts are journalists. The tagline for Brady’s show, for example, is: “Toronto’s news, today’s talk.”

“It’s a horrible way to learn about the news,” said Toney, “because there is literally no accountability whatsoever.”

Editor's note, Jul. 5, 2024: This story has been updated to note that the Kurtz interview segment was pulled from the Newstalk 610 website after this story was published.

Emma Paling is a journalist and writer in Toronto. Her award-winning reporting has been published widely by CBC News, The Breach, HuffPost and Vice.