Rob Ford’s behavior does matter, and it diminishes us all

When Rob Ford was accused of being drunk and belligerent at a Leafs game and asking a stranger if he wanted his wife to “get raped and shot,” he lied and said he wasn’t even at the game. When he was asked by the Toronto Sun if U.S. police had charged him with possession of marijuana, he lied by forcefully and repeatedly denying it. When the CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes made an admittedly-offside attempt to interview him in his driveway, he lied multiple times, saying it was dark out, his daughter was with him, and that the team from the CBC ran at him yelling “we’ve got you Rob Ford, we got you,” none of which is true according to video evidence.

We have not yet seen video evidence of Ford’s encounter with Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale (some security footage is apparently being reviewed UPDATE: Doug Ford says the video will not be released), so for now we’re left only with their two very different versions of events. Ford’s long history of dishonesty, combined with the fact that Dale is an award-winning journalist whose very profession is to document and tell the truth, has lead many to conclude with a reasonable amount of confidence that Dale’s version of events—in which the reporter never left public property nor came close to entering the mayor’s backyard when Ford ran at him, shouting with his fist cocked, and forced him to drop his phone and voice recorder—is the more accurate one. (Add to this that Ford appears to corroborate significant pieces of Dale’s account, but does not provide an explanation for why Dale would yell for help and drop his phone if he didn’t fear for his safety.)

The mayor then waited two hours before contacting a friendly media outlet (I use this phrase confidently, since Newstalk 1010 provides him with a weekly show) to claim that he had caught a Toronto Star reporter trespassing on his property and taking photos of his family. (There is no evidence that’s true, and Ford now admits he never saw Dale come closer than “maybe five meters” from his fence.) That delay, meaning that television cameras didn’t arrive until after dark (no doubt everyone watching the evening news pictured Dale lurking in the backyard after sundown, when in fact he was on public land while it was still light out) is seen by some as a deliberate attempt to distort the truth in a way that undermines the credibility of the Star.

Once Dale’s version of events was published to the Star’s website, even those who believed Dale started to criticize and mock him. Suggesting he had no right to be doing his job (reporting on a story that Ford wants to buy a piece of public land he alternatively says is required either to enhance his home’s security or build a larger play area for his children) on public property in daylight is only upstaged in offensiveness by the pack of people, most of them men and many of them journalists, questioning Dale’s manliness for being frightened when physically threatened and robbed by an agitated man twice his size.

Now, on World Press Freedom day, the mayor is threatening a complete media boycott unless Daniel Dale is fired from his job of reporting on city hall.

There is a temptation to lament that this is what we’re talking about instead of “real issues,” including the “real” story that the mayor is trying to buy a piece of a public park to increase the size of his property. But there’s often more than one issue simultaneously worthy of our attention, and the issue of the mayor’s character is significant and increasingly problematic. How can anyone achieve “journalistic balance” and report on the mayor when a history of blatant and intentional deceit is compounded with threats of physical violence (I am not prepared to define a cocked fist as anything else) towards a reporter?

Years ago, when asked why he didn’t tell the truth about being at the Leafs game, Ford said it was because he was “embarrassed.” He should be deeply embarrassed by last night’s events and his reaction to them as well, but it goes beyond that. We elect leaders to represent the best of us. When Rob Ford charged Daniel Dale, he did so as our mayor. We’re all diminished when this is the kind of leadership we have to look to, and we deserve better.

30 thoughts on “Rob Ford’s behavior does matter, and it diminishes us all

  1. I don’t live in Toronto and I don’t give a damn about Rob Ford, but count me among those who think that Daniel Dale embarrassed the entire journalistic community when he dropped his equipment and ran.

  2. A cocked fist directed at someone, when they are aware of it, is assault (assault covers gestuires of violence, even when not intended to physically injure). Cornering a person and demanding they drop possessions is unlawful confinement and theft.

    He’s now, once again, liberally libeling away as well.

    Our mayor. I’m so proud.

  3. Words cannot express how depressing it is to have Rob Ford as our mayor, but what makes me angry, is the public’s willingness to defend his abhorrent actions again and again, actually going so far as to say that he should have used violence against Dale. Sad.

  4. Wow, I noticed, and read the reporters (Dale) version of events yesterday. and yes, it did strike me as utterly believeable because Dale did not skirt the fact that he was terrified and reacted that way. IF the mayor is in fact libelling Dale, then the Star should pony up some cash to support a libel suit, and get a court order (quick before it disappears) to secure that video footage.
    I think that everybody now knows about the ongoing feud between Ford and the Star, it is not unreasonable that the Mayor gets his ass kicked (figuratively of course) by yet another whopper. Maybe the Star is not interested in being vindictive, but hot damn they can sell a whole lot of papers with exclusives on the court case.
    Ford really does not even have a nodding relationship with truthfulness, does he. I try not to succumb to the vitriol that this polarizing force (Ford) seems to generate, but it is getting harder and harder to stomach quietly. I mean, how does somebody so incompetent get to win and retain power. It isnt as if he is serving his constituencies interests while screwing everything else up. His own supporters are being let down.

  5. [Note: This comment was not made by MP Olivia Chow, however I have reason to believe it may have been made by *someone* named Olivia Chow, which is why I’m leaving it published. -CT, 9am, May 4th]

    Let me first preface this by stating vehemently that I am NOT a fan of Rob Ford. He is a lout and blowhard.
    However, why is Dale ‘reporting’ on a story under cover of night?
    He may have been there when it was light, but he was STILL there when it was dark.
    My camera doesn’t work well in the dark.
    Why is he peering into Ford’s backyard trying to take pictures? And with a Blackberry??
    Why is he lurking about?

    If this is happening on my property (it wouldn’t because The Toronto Star has no interest in running a smear campaign on me) you better believe I’m coming full bore out of my house. And please, a cock fist is not assault. It is at the very most a threat. And considering the circumstances – it is completely understandable. The Star has officially bottomed out, and now embodies a Rupert Murdoch publication. It is embarassing to read, and it’s tactics are nothing short of ridiculous.
    The Mayor is an idiot, and Dale by proxy of the Star – is one too.

  6. I’m going to post what I posted on my facebook wall about this.

    Ford is just ridiculous!

    Point of reference. I lived right across the street from David Miller, our previous mayor for about 3 months… WHILE he was our mayor.

    I never once saw him outside screaming at anyone! And *especially* not acting physically aggressive.

    His daughter used to come over and play with my roommate’s son!

    Mind you I never really saw any media outlets GOING to his home in the first place, but maybe that was because he conducted himself in a way that did not draw such a huge amount of attention and made himself available to the media in the first place. He just acted professionally, something IMO I don’t believe Ford does.

    The way Ford cuts off certain media outlets, and wont “let” anyone make fun of him just makes people want to make fun of him more!
    It’s like when you bug a sibling just because you know you can get a rise out of them! It’s entertaining, and therefore makes great news!
    If Ford acted like he didn’t CARE in the first place they wouldn’t go after him so aggressively.

    Miller was civil, diplomatic, and had a sense of humor about himself.
    All things that I believe are essential for a public figure and all things that Ford lacks.

    I’m not saying Miller was perfect either, no politician or human being for that matter can be perfect. But at least he didn’t treat the media, the residents of this city and anyone who disagreed with him as the enemy.

    And I guess this boils down to the core of my distaste for the man and my belief that he is not fit to hold public office.

    Do I think Ford can change this behavior? Nope. Seeing as he seems to be unable to listen to any form of criticism.
    Ford is the kid with his fingers rammed in his ears shouting “Na na na na, I caaaan’t heaaaar you!”
    Ford will continue to make a fool of himself, and by extension our fair city.

    *sigh* When is the next mayoral election?

  7. that post Above is not from the Real Olivia Chow as she has tweeted that the lilac Tree in her yard has bloomed and welcomes all to take photo’s by her fence and she promises
    not to call 911

  8. “When Rob Ford charged Daniel Dale, he did so as our mayor. We’re all diminished when this is the kind of leadership we have to look to, and we deserve better.”

    I wish I could agree with you, Chris, but I’m afraid we don’t. We elected this buffoon. We deserve this exactly.

  9. If a six-foot, 310-pound man, who has a reputation for being belligerent, is charging at you with clenched fists, you not only drop whatever it is your carrying, you try not to shit your pants.

    Let’s not dwell on piddly little details. The main point to be taken from this sorry event is the mayor’s behaviour and his attempts to lie and cover-up. He has done this before, and will undoubtedly do it again.

  10. Chris, thanks for the astute analysis, which provides some much-needed context to this story. Indeed, I find Dale’s version of events completely believable and Ford’s – as usual – less than forthright.
    However, I’m one of those people who says Dale shouldn’t have dropped his stuff and ran. I certainly haven’t “mocked” him for it, but I’m a journo too, and have been in some nerve-wracking situations. People can be hostile, but you have to just go through with it. Moreover, if he had stood his ground that would have enhanced the legitimacy of what he was doing there. Yes, it would have been scary to have that guy coming at you, but scared or not scared, he needed to stay put and let the Mayor know he wasn’t going to be chased off. He’s a fine young reporter, and my comments aren’t really meant to criticize him per se; he just gave in to his fright and that caused him to make the wrong decision. Ford on the other hand, is on the public payroll and acted appallingly – yet again. He can’t resign fast enough as far as I’m concerned.

  11. I’m not sure that those are really Olivia’s Comments. From Facebook:
    “Dear journalists, the lilac tree in front of my #Toronto house is in bloom, come and take a photo by the fence, I won’t call 911.”

  12. Actually, a cocked fist in the circumstances in Dale’s version, coupled with a demand to give up your phone, is robbery, not assault.

    Since there is video of the incident, in Rob Ford’s possession, he can simply release it to show us how justifiable his behaviour was. If he won’t release it, it is obvious he was out of line.

  13. Good piece, Chris. It’s a measure of just how badly civil society has deteriorated that a serial liar and bully like Rob Ford can still command the support he does — precisely because of his mendacity and belligerence.

    Dave: don’t get me started on that whole “deserve” thing.

  14. First of all, Dale embarrassed nobody by dropping his cell phone and running when he was commanded to do so by an enraged man easily twice his weight. He’s not a war-time reporter, for God’s sake. He’s in Urban Affairs. If you think you would have handled that differently, well then good on you. I am by no means a pacifist but if a 320-pound lunatic comes screaming at me with his fist clenched and aimed at my head and will not let me past, demanding that I give him my phone, I’m reasonably certain he gets my phone. Ford is an obvious loose cannon; I don’t think “getting the true story” is worth a concussion and years of plastic surgery. All those people – especially the ones that call themselves “journalists” – who are mocking him really need to take care of their own corner of the world and let Dale worry about his. There is never a time when running from a lunatic who is twice your size and threatening you with his hammy fists is a “bad decision”. Never.

    And to the idiot here who called himself “Olivia Chow”: Dale was not “STILL there when it was dark”. He was long gone before the sun went down. I think you didn’t even bother to read Chris’ blog post; rather, you just came here to troll. There’s an awful lot of that going around today.

  15. I’ll never understand why someone can write out a well thought out comment, using full, non-abbreviated words, but then can’t bring themselves to spell out “in my opinion” using “IMO” instead. Just sad. Sad and lazy.

  16. Rob Ford is stupid-first and foremost he is stupid. This idiotic,bad-tempered, lying, bullying & paranoid control freak should never have been elected. He is a disgrace and a blight on our city & should be tossed out of public office.

  17. Rob has no professional behaviors; he is a drama queen and acts like a good. He need to find ways to get the people to like him or quit. He also need to understand why a lot of people are after him; unlike other politicians. I don’t think this man deserves this position. I am embarrassed by this man, I feel like I live in a third world country. I don’t know how people voted for this man; I seems racism is still a big deal in the city. On his election speech, he made a racist comment about immigration and new comers.

  18. yeah its sad about all this but its happening all over our country,cuz people know it doesnt matter what u do theres always a lawyer who will take your money and say “hes totally innocent of any wrongdoing.How shameful!Wake up Canada ! we need some major reforms in our court bout using lie detectors?cuz then the courts wouldnt make so much money needlessly dragging things out!everyone should be incensed and in my opinion the courts have become a nothing more than a money laundering system for the bar many families have been decimated and onandon from this!what a disgrace!why do they have such a charge as “contempt of court”?to simply protect their golden calf.Canada wake up !all people rich andPoor deserve justice and Help.It should not cost thousands of dollars to be heard i n a court of say “well theres legal aid if you dont make enough”i daRE U TO CHECK OUT THE STATS ON HOW MANY WITH LEGAL AID WIN.VERY FEW AND ONCE AGAIN ITS BECAUSE THEN EVERYONE WOULD GET LEGAL AID AND no MONEY WOULD BE COMING INTO THESYSTEM.WE NEED REFORM!!AND I HOPE YOUALL SEE BEYOND THE NICE SUIT AND TIES AND SEE THE DEVASTATION OF OUR FAMILIES AND OUR HURTING NATION.fOLLOW THE MONEY AND 95% YOULL SEE THE JUDGEMENT IN FAVOR OF THAT.REAL JUSTICE HEALS A NATION,HEALS FAMILIES,AND VIOLENT OFFENDERS DONT GET AWAY.LET US CRY FOR REFORM CUZ WERE A BEAUTIFUL NATION!O CANADA,I STAND ON GUARD FOR THEE!

  19. Greg, using IMO is no worse than writing “but then can’t bring themselves” instead of “herself,” when it is obvious that the writer is female. I know that this usage is becoming more accepted, but that doesn’t make it grammatically correct. Cheap shot? Yep! BTW, I would have run, too. But I would have kept my phone, because even being the out-of-shape 65-year-old that I am, I feel confident I could have outrun him.

  20. Dale is believable because he’s….an award winning reporter?! Seriously… I don’t know if to laugh or to cry for you…. If he was really there investigating the property, why was he so far away from it (he was on the other side of ford’s property, completely opposite the land in question), and the clincher is that he was there in the evening, not ideal time to take a picture…

    The maps were “confusing”… Um… Seriously? Show us, let us decide.
    And knowing that Mr. Ford and family have had repeated death threats, would it not have been wise to perhaps call ahead? He didn’t need to call Ford directly, call one of his staffers, give them a heads up…

    If Ford wasn’t such a stickler to his policy of gravy cutting (he refuses a driver and security) – a security gaurd would have likely handled this.

    I realize this is a political issue and there is really no changing your minds… The Ford haters will keep hating him, many/most of the majority that voted for him will likely keep supporting him. I simply ask this: if you were facing harrassment, and repeated death threats, and then see a man with a camera pointed towards your property, in the bushes…and you have young children at home… do you REALLY come out calmly or does ‘fight or flight take over’? It’s a visceral response when you feel trespassed upon – the man is human.

  21. The Star’s behaviour is demeaning to all journalists as it is petty, vindictive and irresponsible, next thing we know it’ll be on the stand as the Enquirer.

    Too bad the Star doesn’t stand by it’s own policies of: debate the issue, avoid personal attacks and name calling
    2. Do not make comments that are threatening, obscene, profane, contain hate speech or degrade others. Yet, they can print a demeaning and degrading cartoon and follow him to KFC place as they stalk Ford and his family.

  22. Rob Ford was elected fairly and legally. He is our Mayor. I absolutely hate David Miller, but I didn’t go out of my way to harass and belittle him, nor did I look for ways to have him kicked out of office. You all need to sit back and wait till the next election. This is how democracy works, get over it.

  23. There is reason to believe that Smitherman-supporting Star should rather be the focus.
    Better Ford than Smitherman, in that the insidious latter was stopped. Ford is gross, Torontonians get what they deserve. Why is he being gone after like this in a personal way by a Star journalist? Remember also the taking down of another candidate in a personal way, Giambrone? Who does not think Smitherman’s backers might be behind this?

  24. “Who does not think Smitherman’s backers might be behind this?”

    Everyone, because that’s probably the most deranged conspiracy theory yet advanced.

  25. I find it hypocritical how when a politician like Rob Ford is acting up and or being “rude” to those who harass him in his personal time, he’s criticized by all you “enlightened urbane” champagne socialists but at the same time when an affair from one of your darlings (ie. Giambrone) is discovered, you guys switch tactics and say it’s “his personal life”. Enough with the moral beckering. Why don’t you make your own little “republic” where everybody can be “enlightened”, “modern”, “progressive”, “intelligent”, “urbane” and let’s not forget politically correct or else they get deported…

  26. Hmmmmm, such a poorly written piece….has more spin than an R. A. Dickey Breaking ball!! Sounds like a whole lot of sour grapes.

  27. I would like this version posted vs. the early version
    Dear Fellow Concerned Torontonians!

    I would like to initially state that I actually do like some of the policies that Rob Ford supports.
    What I don’t like is the way he and his brother Doug Ford, spin facts so it appears that the ideas are originally their own or take credit for the good results that are really due to other factors that have helped “their” successful policies.

    I wish we could have a more respectable, thoughtful individual who could represent Toronto as its mayor. No person is perfect, we all have our short-comings. However, Mr. Rob Ford, refuses to learn from his past mistakes…showing him to be an individual who has felt entitled to act inappropriately in the public forum. Mr. Ford was elected as the mayor and as such should be able to learn that in Toronto, there are diverse views / perspectives that need to be heard and considered. It isn’t because he is mayor that everything he says is both correct and lawful. That type of politics is so prevalent in the third world I have to wonder if Mr. Ford has been brought up in such an environment.
    Being the offspring of immigrants, my parents and grandparents came to Canada to live in a society that respected democracy as well as good governance that welcomed ethnic diversity with a unifying goal of contributing to a strong and free democracy. In addition, the people who helped build Canada in the past — deserve better representation of their efforts from their offsprings.

    Those people out there who say that the media is picking on Rob Ford may have had a point in the beginning of his term as mayor. However, those who continue to support his irresponsible behaviour are guilty of enabling a stubborn individual who refuses to learn upon past experiences. My grandparents / parents and their generation would be very disappointed in the conduct of person who believes in blaming others for his / her misconducts. It is time that Mr. Ford “Man-up” and start behaving in such a manner appropriate to his position as mayor. If he cannot, it is time that the respectable people of Toronto find a mayor who will perform the job with some dignity and respect.

    Accusing others of only pointing out one’s personal conduct in public isn’t the fault of the reporters….but the fault of the person who has appeared that way in public.
    I don’t blame others if I appear drunk in public, I only have my own conduct to blame.

    Bullying other because they don’t support your personal view is just wrong. Bullying includes trying to attack others using robocalls to point out how one votes….which isn’t necessary as we all can see the results on the internet. Those of you who believe in bullying others because you want your way, please look at yourself and see why you need to resort to such tactics if your argument is so correct and just. Bullying is a poor excuse for a coping mechanism that evidence other personal insecurities are present.

    In addition, all the conservatives out there, let’s be blunt….let’s call a spade a spade…otherwise your own credibility will be questioned. I pray that the political moderates from both left and right prevail in Toronto, let us not become so polarized that common ground cannot be found. We actually need a good balance between right and left to have a good balanced perspective.
    Toronto needs hard working individuals who do not collaborate with criminal elements in the public environment. Look at Quebec as an poor example of poor choices of individuals voted into positions of power.

    I pray that Canada will not join the third world in practicing bad politics and poor governance, but be an example to others as a right and just society that supports a true working democracy.

    Happy Thanksgiving

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