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Canada Ezra Levant admits The Rebel needs more oversight in wake of controversies

Outspoken political commentator Ezra Levant arrives at the Law Society of Alberta in Calgary, Alta., on March 2, 2016.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The founder of the online news site The Rebel admits its content and management need more oversight in the wake of a string of controversies.

One reporter was fired, another founder quit and two other contributors resigned last week after the outlet came under intense criticism for its coverage of deadly protests in Virginia.

While some believed the outlet to be on its last legs, Rebel founder Ezra Levant said late Tuesday that's not the plan.

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"I'm a flawed leader who has made mistakes," he wrote in a post on the conservative news site late Tuesday.

"But as long as you stand with me, I will still stand."

Levant said he's going to bring in better management of both the business and editorial side of the operation and hire new journalists.

Levant said he is partially to blame, and can no longer run the whole company.

"Maybe I could when we were just eight people in my living room. But not now, with 45 people in four countries, I can't do my show, and all our campaigns, and also run the company," he said.

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"I need help."

Levant said while he thinks The Rebel's coverage has been great, if even one per cent were "wrong editorially," it could, and has, embarrassed them.

"I think we need more oversight — not more censorship — just to make sure we're really being on brand with what we believe, what we stand for," he wrote.

The Rebel has long found itself on the defensive about its coverage, but criticism soared to new heights last week after reporter Faith Goldy travelled to cover protests by white nationalists in Virginia who went on to clash with counter protesters.

Her coverage was seen as being sympathetic to the causes of the nationalists who were chanting anti-Semitic slurs at the event, drawing condemnation from a host of politicians.

Among them — after several days of questions — was Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who suggested Goldy had crossed the line between reporting the facts and giving those groups a platform.

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He pledged no further interviews with the Rebel until it changed its editorial direction.

Levant had sent out a memo in the aftermath of the Virginia protests seeking to distance The Rebel from the so-called "alt-right," the name adopted by white nationalist and supremacist groups.

But when it emerged, Goldy had also appeared on a podcast affiliated with white supremacist group The Daily Stormer, Levant fired her.

Goldy has since called that a "poor decision."

Levant also confirmed Tuesday that contributor Gavin McInnes is leaving the outlet, a move he said has been in the works for awhile.

Among his controversial contributions had been a post about a trip to Israel originally titled "10 things I hate about Jews," though that was changed after an outcry.

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That trip was among those The Rebel paid for by crowdfunding, and Levant is now pledging greater transparency over how much money the Rebel raises and how it gets spent.

That promise comes after two other former contributors levied a string of allegations last week about misuse of donations.

On Tuesday, Levant said in the past fiscal year, The Rebel raised $1.54-million via crowdfunding, with the average gift being $78.

He said that nearly covers the $1.67-million in the outlet's expenses.

He said charity campaigns run by The Rebel have netted upward of $853,000 for causes including the Fort McMurray wildfires and saving Christians in the Middle East.

In addition to donations, The Rebel asks people to subscribe to their premium online content for $8 a month. Levant did not release figures Tuesday on the number of paid subscribers.

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There are currently about 855,000 subscribers to the site's YouTube channel, down more than 15,000 since last week.

The Rebel was launched in 2015 following the demise of the conservative Sun News Network.

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