The mayor's friends are coming to his defense at the beginning of what will likely be a difficult week for him.
The Star‘s investigation of Mayor Rob Ford’s history of possible substance abuse has only been on newsstands for a few hours, but already Ford’s political allies are well into damage control, phase one: deny.
The article, which you should read, cites several unnamed sources, some close to the mayor and some not-so-close, most of whom allege that Ford has struggled with excessive drinking. The Star‘s sources say Ford’s staff members have been concerned about the mayor for more than two years—that they’ve even urged him to go to rehab. The article also recounts the details of two specific times when Ford’s behaviour supposedly resulted in him being asked to leave public places. One of those incidents was in February.
Earlier this morning, the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North), went on AM640′s John Oakley Show, where he denied the Star‘s version of events, saying:
“You notice with the Star, Johnny, it’s always hearsay, hearsay, hearsay. Not only myself—you can call the deputy mayor or anyone. I’ve never seen Rob drink at any event, ever.
(You can listen to the full interview here.)
Throughout the interview, Doug Ford calls the Star‘s credibility into question without actually contesting any of the allegations in detail.
The Globe has a similar quote from Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who said the following:
“We do know with Rob Ford there’s a lot of people that are either for him or against him and they feel strongly no matter what side they’re on…And some people are prepared to say and do things to him to detract from him being the mayor. We’ve seen this time in, time out.”
Which, like Doug’s AM640 interview, appears to stop just short of a flat denial.
The definitive pro-Ford reaction to the news came around 11 a.m., when Ford made a scheduled appearance in the City Hall members’ lounge, to present boxer George Chuvalo with a key to the city.
After a speech from Ford about Chuvalo’s many accomplishments (ironically, he runs an organization called Fight Against Drugs, which he started after losing his wife and three sons to substance abuse) and some personal reminiscence from the boxer about his Toronto childhood, a visibly sweaty mayor deflected questions from the press. He said:
“You guys are liars. It’s about George Chuvalo today. Have some respect.”
And then he gave the mic to Chuvalo, who quickly found himself in an awkward position. As a friend of Ford’s family, he was obliged to come to the mayor’s defence—which he did, with these words:
“Listen, the mayor is a good guy. Just keep trucking the way you do. That’s all I can say to him.”
And that, for the time being, is the last word from the Ford camp.
This article originally said that Doug Ford, during an interview on AM640, didn’t explicitly deny that Mayor Rob Ford has a substance problem. In fact, host John Oakley did specifically ask Doug whether he denied that allegation. The councillor’s response was: “Absolutely.” The article has been corrected to reflect this.