Yesterday morning, Just For Laughs president Gilbert Rozon woke up and promoted his upcoming appearance as a judge on French television’s version of America’s Got Talent: La France a un incroyable talent.
12 hours later, Rozon surrendered it all, amid widespread and renewed allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
His official statement last night in both French and English:
J’annonce que je quitte dès maintenant mes fonctions de Président du Groupe Juste pour rire, de Commissaire aux célébrations du 375e de Montréal ainsi qu’en tant que Vice-Président de la Chambre de Commerce du Montréal Métropolitain.
Je me retire par respect pour les employés et les familles qui travaillent pour ces organisations ainsi que tous nos partenaires. Je ne veux surtout pas leur porter ombrage.
Ébranlé par les allégations me concernant, je souhaite consacrer tout mon temps à faire le point.
À toutes celles et ceux que j’ai pu offenser au cours de ma vie, j’en suis sincèrement désolé.
I announce that I am leaving now my duties as chairman of the group just for laughs, as a commissioner for the 375th Montreal celebrations and as Vice-President of the Montreal Chamber of commerce.
I withdraw out of respect for employees and families who work for these organizations and all our partners. I don’t want to wear ombrage.
Shaken by the allegations, I wish to devote my time to the point.
To all those who have been offended in my life, I am truly sorry.
Nine women reported allegations of sexual harassment or worse to French newspaper Le Devoir and radio station 98.5 FM. At least seven of them vowed to testify in person. It would appear that some of the women shared their stories just this week as a result of the #MeToo social media campaign. Their encounters go as far back as 1982 and as recently as 2016.
One accuser, comedian and actress Salomé Corbo claimed that she was 14 when Rozon groped her and digitally penetrated her at a JFL party in 1990.
Rozon had pleaded guilty in 1998 to a previous charge of sexual assault, but received a discharge the following year. In that case, the judge, Justice Béliveau wrote in part: “Gilbert Rozon admitted to having sexual acts of sexual nature towards the victim by touching her breasts, while the victim did not wish to do so.” (Gilbert Rozon avait admis avoir, sous l’effet de l’alcool, fait des gestes de nature sexuelle envers la victime en lui touchant les seins, alors que la victime ne le souhaitait pas)
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre told the CBC he was shocked to learn of Rozon’s resignation and the allegations behind them. “The message is that we are with the victims and we want to make sure the victims can come forward, and not just in the cultural milieu, in others as well,” Coderre said.
Radio-Canada confirmed that Montreal police are investigating Rozon for another incident in Paris in 1994.
Earlier this year, Rozon received an Icon Award on behalf of Just For Laughs at the Canadian Screen Awards, broadcast in March. He sat with JFL COO Bruce Hills behind Dave Chappelle and his wife. Chappelle presented Rozon and Hills with the award.
Rozon’s acceptance speech runs from 33:28 to 36:36 in this video: