Citing a "mutual" agreement, the Fords and Newstalk 1010 announced today that the mayor's Sunday radio show is no more. Here, some thoughts on the end of an era, from our resident expert.
On Tuesday morning, Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) spoke to a journalism class at Ryerson University. According to the Ryersonian, he launched into a classic Doug-tirade against journalists across the city. He claimed the media treats the Ford family “worse than Princess Diana,” and that Newstalk 1010, aside from the two-hour radio show he and the mayor host on the station every Sunday, is “all trash, morning to night.”
Earlier today, Newstalk cancelled the controversial Rob and Doug Ford show, citing a “mutual” decision—which sounds similar to the “mutual” decision you and your crush make not to date each other.
The choice to cancel the program takes away a key tool the Ford administration has used to bypass the media and deliver its message directly to its base. (Previous mayors, like Mel Lastman and David Miller, have hosted call-in TV shows, but those were moderated by journalists.)
It’s not a coincidence that the mayor chose talk radio as his way of speaking directly to Ford Nation. As a councillor, he built his base with weekly rants on John Oakley’s AM640 show. That practiced anger became the basis of his successful 2010 mayoral campaign. But in late 2011 and early 2012, as the administration’s messaging went off the rails as a result of major defeats on waterfront development, the city budget, and public transit, Ford’s office sought a way to better control its communications.
In February 2012, Rob and Doug Ford took over centrist councillor Josh Matlow’s show on Newstalk 1010, and made it less policy-based and more combative. The Ford brothers used their platform to deride all sorts of targets, including activists, Clayton Ruby, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, council critics, unions, bike couriers, and other cartoonish caricatures.
The show provided a weekly glimpse into the so-called Ford Nation. Callers would frequently refer to Rob as “the best mayor ever” and implore him to “stay the course.” But this was an artificial construct. (Especially when the callers were named “Dave.”) Designed to galvanize and amplify Ford’s base, not to provide a reflection of the city’s issues and civic discourse, the show thrived on divisive politics. Over the course of almost two years, only four left-wing councillors joined the program, and over 90 per cent of callers supported the mayor. These calls reflected and contributed to a cult of personality that let the mayor believe he commanded a “nation.”
Now the mayor’s messaging enters a new stage. It will have to be mediated by increasingly skeptical journalists. Given that Ford is currently the world’s most notorious political liar, and given that he has frequently referred to journalists as “pathological liars,” not having his own platform to state consistently untrue talking points will make communications, for him, much more difficult.
The mayor once counted on a bevy of sympathetic journalists—like Joe Warmington, Sue-Ann Levy, Andrew Krystal, Jerry Agar, and John Oakley—to deliver his unfiltered message. However, many of them have either grown weary of the mayor in the latest stage of this scandal, or have moved on from City Hall.
This leaves the mayor in a lurch; with no way to pass on his talking points, it remains an open question whether he can maintain Ford Nation.
At the end of every radio show, Doug Ford would tell listeners “God bless the people of Toronto, and God bless Ford nation.” As the mayor wrapped his press conference on Tuesday, wherein he apologized for smoking crack, he told the gathered journalists, “God bless the people of Toronto.” Laughter from incredulous journalists broke out. He was going to do it. In his internationally broadcast apology, he was going to bless Ford Nation. But the laughter lifted the spell, and Ford moved on. He turned around, and walked away from all questions.
As an aside, with no more radio show, there will be no more Rob and Doug Ford Radio Recap. I’d like to thank Raccoon Nation for taking the time to read it, encouraging fact-checks and providing thoughtful comments. The snarky and indignant commentary was meant to be an antidote for all of the non-believers out there, and a means of tracking what was going on at City Hall and holding the mayor and his brother accountable. Additional thanks go to editors Hamutal Dotan, Steve Kupferman, Sarah Sweet, and Chantal Braganza. Journalism takes a team, and they all made it happen.
God bless you, Raccoon Nation.