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Dear American Media: Who You Should Talk To About Rob Ford

...and who you should definitely, entirely avoid.

Outside Rob Ford’s City Hall office.

So! You’re an American journalist, itching for a good lengthy piece about Rob Ford for your newspaper/news network/blog/whatever. This is understandable, because Rob Ford is a good story to write about: it’s a funny story (at least from a distance), dramatic, and sheds light on aspects of Canadian political culture you’ve never really thought about—all that sort of thing. You should cover the Rob Ford saga.

The problem, however, is that there are a lot of people to talk to in Toronto about Rob Ford. There are politicians, journalists, politicians who were journalists, and journalists who were politicians (and some, like John Tory, who are travelling in both directions at once). There are a lot of people who know a lot about Rob Ford. But some are better to talk to than others.

Let us give you a handy primer.

sue ann levySue-Ann is certainly colourful and knows a lot about Toronto’s political scene, but the former City Hall correspondent for the Toronto Sun is currently trying to pretend that she has not been the Fords’ staunchest backer for Rob’s entire term in office—most likely because, well, look at all the things that have happened. This means your interview will likely not be that accurate. Worse, Levy’s…let’s call them “rhetorical flourishes”…when it comes to Toronto’s left wing will likely make you goggle. (An important exception: if you work for Fox News, you should probably go find Levy first and save us all some time.)

adrienne batraRob Ford’s former press secretary and now a columnist for the Toronto Sun, Batra is smart (even if we don’t always agree with her politics), eloquent, and she got out of the Ford circus early enough that she is less tainted than most by the enormous ongoing scandal that is Ford. If you want the “insider perspective” for your story, Batra is probably your best bet and should not be too self-serving.

sarah thomsonYou might be inclined to interview Thomson because she alleged Rob Ford groped her in one of his drunken stupors earlier this year, and was subsequently attacked for it by Ford Nation. Please don’t. Thomson is a particularly shameless self-promoter, and the fact that she was clearly done wrong by Ford Nation does not change this. Earlier this year when the crack scandal first broke, Thomson cryptically wrote on her Facebook page that the publication she runs, the Women’s Post, “had the video,” which got her many, many page-views—until she revealed that “the video” simply referred to some video for some promotional campaign Thomson was running. This should tell you one thing: speak with Sarah Thomson as little as possible.

robyn doolittleSome American news outlets have already interviewed Doolittle and this was a very good move, because the Toronto Star reporter is probably the foremost journalistic expert with respect to the Rob Ford scandals. Doolittle is principled, intelligent, and a good interview (which many print journalists are not). Also, many people called her a liar for months—she was one of the reporters who saw the crack video back in the spring—and if anyone deserves a chance to lay this whole situation out properly from beginning to end, oh boy is it her.

mammoThe veteran city councillor is a crass toady. To call Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) a rat fleeing a sinking ship is to insult rats: the man has only one political setting, and that is self-interested. Right now Mammo is undecided as to whether to stick it out with the Fords (his political allies for the past three years) or to suddenly start pretending that really, he was on the side of the anti-Fordists all along. This is interesting, in a sort of sad way, but it also makes him a useless interview subject. Besides which, Mammo does not really have an original thought to offer, except for his plan to erect a giant flagpole in northern Toronto (yes, really), so it’s not like you’re missing out. (PS: Do not ask Mammo about the giant flagpole. Just…don’t, okay?)

john parkerWe know you’re going to want to speak to one of Toronto’s conservative politicians—Ford is apparently one—so our advice is to pick Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West): he is a fiscal conservative who votes with his principles (which often meant voting with Rob Ford but in some striking cases voting against him), and who is also a strong defender of civic propriety. He was the first conservative councillor to truly break with the Ford administration and he didn’t try to hedge when he did so. Parker might not get our vote, but he will always have our respect.

olivia chowThis is not really a criticism of Olivia Chow, per se. The current member of parliament for Trinity-Spadina and likely progressive candidate for mayor is historically well-versed in Toronto municipal politics, and we think she will run an interesting campaign. But the key word in that last sentence is “historically.” Chow will be running next year as a relative outsider: she has not been a regular in the Toronto municipal political arena for several years now. She’s just not a veteran of the Rob Ford years, and despite being a relatively big name she can’t really contribute much to your story.

kwtWong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), a rookie councillor elected in 2010 (in the same election that made Ford mayor), has been an engaged and visible presence at council and will serve American journalists well as a representative voice for Toronto’s political left. There are certainly progressive councillors who would be more entertaining interviews (Adam Vaughan) and there are progressive councillors who have a deeper knowledge of policy (Gord Perks), but Wong-Tam gives you a solid bit of everything. More importantly, though: she is personally representative of where Toronto, the most diverse city on the continent, is going—and in this regard strikes a strong contrast to Rob Ford, who is in many ways what Toronto was a very long time ago.

doug fordThis bears special mention because Doug Ford has appeared on both CNN and NBC News in the past week. Look, Americans, we can’t overstate the importance of this, so we’re going to be as blunt as humanly possible: Doug Ford is a goddamned liar. He lies easily, reflexively, and near-constantly, because Doug Ford simply does not care about the truth (when in fact he has any idea what the truth may be). You might say to yourself that you are expecting this, because Doug Ford is going to protect his brother, but you will not be prepared for the sheer scope of Doug Ford’s never-ending mendacity, his constant false equivalencies, and his willingness to argue in bad faith—and you will not expect Doug Ford to lie to protect himself rather than protect his brother, because you will think “well, surely he won’t throw his brother under the bus,” but if you think that, you are giving Doug Ford too much credit. We would sooner have you interview Giorgio Mammoliti one hundred times before we have you interview Doug Ford even once.

FINALLY, TALK TO: Us! We work cheap.


  • emeraldeyes24

    I loved this, Torontoist. Accurate and humorous. Enjoy your accurate, well written pieces.

  • Brian Young

    Great piece! I agree on all counts. Maybe you could direct them to talk to a few actual Toronto citizens as well; bike riders like me will gladly stop for a microphone.

  • eastegg

    Great article.

    What about Mark Towhey? I’d add him to the “don’t talk to” list. He was a major Ford enabler and I get the sense that a lot of his attempts to reign in the mayor were more about mitigating potential political damage than anything else. I can’t help but question at what point, if any, would he have resigned if Ford hadn’t fired him?

    I’ll give him some credit for trying to protect staff and calling the police when news of the crack video broke, but I still think he has a lot to answer to in all of this.

    • Christopher Bird

      Towhey should be considered a “don’t talk” – not because of any moral failing on his part for enabling Ford (don’t get me wrong, it’s bad, but journalists have to interview bad people sometimes, that’s part of the job), but because he is clearly too closely involved to the ongoing investigation to be trusted to be able to speak candidly.

  • Christopher Bird

    Warmington is neither a “should” nor a “shouldn’t” in my books. He’s not a “shouldn’t” because he understands the gravity of the situation and has acted appropriately. However, he’s not a “should” because if you’re going to interview a journalist for their perspective, you need to interview one who has demonstrated the capacity to be at least reasonably objective, and Warmington has been so firmly in the mayor’s camp over the past few years that he took Rob Ford’s word at face value when anybody who covers Rob Ford knows that the mayor has, at best, a tenuous grasp on what can be considered “the truth.”

    Warmington is not a bootlicker nor a toady, but he hasn’t distinguished himself with respect to all matters Ford.

    • DuddyKravitz

      I can’t believe anyone would try to pretend Warmington isn’t just a Ford clan puppet. Remember a few weeks ago when he dared to print something impartial about Rob? And Rob called him and screamed at him over the phone? And Doug swore Warmington would never write anything that wasn’t pro-Ford again? And all we’ve seen from Warmington since, as the story intensifies, is pro-Ford stories? Yeah so there you have it.

  • luganman

    no he’s a Ford turd polisher

  • bobloblawbloblawblah

    I might add Minnan Wong and the ever grumpy Mike Del Grande for a city hall perspective. But, yes, please don’t let Doug near another microphone……

  • dsmithhfx

    Our notoriety is precious? This is too funny.

  • Moonmoth

    Word. Esp Re: Drug Lord Doug Ford. What a human piece of dog poo.

  • Bradford Hamilton

    Doug Ford has been on CNN down here in Florida all day today. What’s wrong with that?

    • OgtheDim

      The fact you are spending a Saturday in Nashville/Florida/Hamilton/your mom’s basement in Leaside watching CNN is probably a problem.

  • Bradford Hamilton

    The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel is interviewing snowbirds from Toronto. They all say they are appalled that Americans now associate Toronto with crack!

  • mlwjones

    Great list! I would add to “don’t talk” any declared or on the edge of declared 2014 candidates, or at least couch that with a disclaimer. There are better sources that aren’t easily dismissed as self-interested.

  • scottld

    The Ann Coulter reference is good. But not only does Doug lie, he changes his position and still manages to lie. ie Ron Never drinks, Rob like to hoist a few et al where his position changed 4 times in one day.

  • Richard Horgan

    In response to an American radio outlet’s recent requested suggestions for someone good to talk to about all this, I suggested either Robert Fulford or Brent Butt.

  • Pete Forde

    I appreciate and generally agree with this list, but I kept scrolling down expecting to see Edward Keenan on your list of DOs right alongside Robyn Doolittle. His op-eds on Ford dating back to the beginning of his tenure as a fringe city counsellor are nuanced, educational and fun.

  • Will Partridge

    Fantastic article. Insightful and humorous. I wasn’t surprised at all when I scrolled back to the byline and saw it was written by Christopher Bird. Americans, there’s the local guy you should be interviewing.

  • bullyorbullied

    Interview Doug.. but put some pop-ups and music to show how ridiculous he is…

    • Shada

      Doug Ford: “383 000 votes, the highest in the city’s history.”
      [BLOOP] “There have been five elections since amalgamation. Mel Lastman got 483 000 in the second one.”

      Doug Ford: “There’s a lot of biased media up here.”
      [BLOOP] “Does not know what ‘biased’ means.”

      Doug Ford: “He has saved the city a billion dollars.”
      [BLOOP] “Only if you count millions of dollars twice, use high-end estimates, and redefine the word ‘saved.’”

  • wklis

    Do not have Stephen LeDrew as any interviewer, moderator, nor reporter. He either asked the wrong questions or did not probe deeper when he confronted (more like greeted) the Ford brothers.

    • mytwocentsworth

      Agreed. LeDrew is one of the Fords’ biggest cheerleaders in the media. He, too, has been described as a clown or a buffoon, take your pick.

      • OgtheDim

        He’s less a chearleader, and more like a chat show host.

        • mytwocentsworth

          Perhaps. I guess he could be described as a pandering chat show host.

  • MER1978

    Maybe smart to avoid journalists generally but if not I would put Matt Elliott as a DO.

  • danieljchristie

    Talk To: Jerry Agar. And, when you’re fed up LISTENING to Jerry Agar and you’ve come to the realization that Jerry Agar does the talking, not you, and that you ain’t gonna get a word in edgewise, then -and only then- give the whole damn enterprise of seeking any rational opinion on this a one-way ticket to Media Landfill. Think Ted Cruz with his own radio show. Just like Ted Cruz, Jerry Agar Does the talking. The only difference is that Jerry Agar (Rob Ford’s prime media enabler) can’t quote from Dr. Zeuss. At least as far as we know anyway…

  • danieljchristie

    Talk To: Ma Ford and her daughter. Why? Because it’s so sick I can’t take my eyes off it…

    • Bradford Hamilton

      Kinda like porn?

  • Bradford Hamilton

    Hi Toronto! Writing from Nashville, I’ve never been to Toronto, but all of America is dying to see the next Rob Ford gaffe. Please keep us updated. I’m in the LoBro area of Nashville, lots of people on the streets now, loaded, and yelling, “Get Toronto Back on Track, Keep the Mayor That Smokes Crack!!!”

    • BrainDrainXP

      Thanks for your concern. We’re cheering for China to call in your debt. Have a nice day.

      • Sack Lodge

        And America would say ‘Sure, ok’. It would hand it over and there would be nothing China would get in return.

        Any decision by China to sell off massive positions of U.S. debt would send the American economy into a downward spiral, destroying the value of China’s investments, but also China’s export-driven economy.

    • Bradford Hamilton

      I don’t know why, but I guess Canadians don’t know geography. I get messages asking me where Nashville is. It’s in Tennessee. I’m surprised Canadians don’t know what’s going on south of their border.

      • vampchick21

        We know where Nashville is. After all, you do have a hockey team. (ps, try harder next time, m’kay?)

      • dsmithhfx

        Dude, it’s like white-out here 24/7/365. We can’t even leave the igloo to take a piss without taking along a rope to find our way back.

      • Doug Earl

        Bradford, please name the provinces where the following Canadian cities are: Yorkton, Camrose, Wolfville, Duncan, Brantford, Red Deer, Thompson, Corner Brook, Dartmouth, Flin Flon. If you get even one of them right without looking it up, you can come back and criticize our knowledge of US geography.

        • dsmithhfx

          Better not ask our mayor, though…

        • MER1978

          Easy Dartmouth NS though it doesn’t really exist any more… it’s part of Halifax now.

          I’m not sure how coming up with obscure cities really tests general knowledge.

          How many provinces can the average American name? The average Canadian could at least name most states I would bet.

          • Doug Earl

            I wasn’t addressing the question of general knowledge, I was responding to Brad’s seeming contention that Canadians should know and care where American cities like Nashville are.

      • GUEST

        Didn’t Obama say there were 57 states and Austrian was a language ? And this is your president ???

  • Taliba100

    Disagree about Doug Ford. Please talk to him so that a) our media doesn’t have to and b) his fraud and sociopathy can be exposed internationally and we can be rid of him.

  • OgtheDim

    I’d like somebody to interview Shiner right now. The only quote I saw justifying his no vote on that one item is him saying Rob has done some good things.


    • bluesnoodler

      Well I understand that he did give Dracula the Diabeetus

  • Donald Blair

    I am particularly surprised at how balanced this list is. I’m not totally sure I agree about Levy, though: she has covered the mayor from the other side of the journalism fence. In fact, Don Peat should be on this list as a talk-to, if you’re going to have Doolittle on this list too. It’s otherwise a perfect start to a cheat sheet for American media.

    And I wouldn’t talk to anyone at Torontoist. Not that I don’t totally disagree with your assessment of Doug Ford, but any “journalist” who outright start a statement by calling someone a “goddamned liar” also has little cred of themselves too. Sorry ‘ist, it’s just what it is.

    • dsmithhfx

      Well he is a sleazy, lying gasbag. So there’s that.

    • OgtheDim

      So you would have people not talk to somebody at Torontoist because they call Ford a “goddamned liar” but you would have them talk to SAL who spews stuff on twitter about as bad as any troll?!?!

      • Testu

        Yes, because he’s a OPC party hack who got bored trolling the National Post and wandered over here to fresher grounds.

        • OgtheDim

          Oh yeah…cause SAL is gunning for McGuinty and they need to give her some street cred…oh wait.

          • Testu

            I just figured he got bored of the NP echo chamber and took a break to stir things up here.

      • Donald Blair

        No, my point was that SAL knows more about the mayor than most other journalists. I did correct myself by saying that Don Peat would be a far better choice from Quebecor Media. But I guess you skipped over that part.

    • Doug Earl

      Sue Ann Levy should never be spoken to simply because she makes no sense and is not that bright.

      • Donald Blair

        Well, see, here we go again. You have an opinion of SAL, as do I. I don’t think she’s the best columnist in the city, but MY ONLY POINT was that she, who covered mayors since 1998, probably has a good grasp on Ford – from a point of view that you can’t get from someone else. Yet, those who have commented on my post seem to have glossed over my reco of Don Peat, also from the Sun, who has been far more balanced in his reporting, since that’s what he is: a reporter.

        • Doug Earl

          And my point is I don’t care what Sue Ann Levy’s perspective on the mayor is because she makes no sense and is not that bright. As whatever perspective she may have will be filtered through her seriously underdeveloped intellect, it is therefore of no interest to me and should be of interest to no one else. If Rob Ford has a dog, the dog would have a very inside perspective, but will only give us, as Sue Ann does, woof woof woof. Not helpful.

  • DuddyKravitz

    Doug Ford is a lying, reptile sleaze.

  • dsmithhfx


  • bullyorbullied

    I enjoyed how Doug makes a fool of himself on CNN. Maybe when he watches the re-run, he finally realize that CNN is laughing at him, not with him.

  • ephena

    i would disagree on the Doug part. Please, talk to the sleaze. Give him rope. Please.

  • Angie Mac

    That was a really good, honest assessment of the who’s who in this. It wasn’t too left and it wasn’t too right.

  • knotsing

    The looks on the faces of the CNN interviewers was special. They seemed a little perplexed. Like, ‘does this guy insult everyone who interviews him the way he is insulting us by lying and lying to us?’

  • iSkyscraper

    Ugh, looks like CNN and Fox News did not exactly take your advice.

  • J K

    Probably not a good idea to tell the American media who they should and shouldn’t talk to, even as a joke. You know they could take it the wrong way, and don’t forget they’re polarized and many of them are still upset about how former president Bill Clinton’s opponents shut down the government in a moral panic over Clinton having sex with an intern in the White House. Today they’re laughing at Ford, tomorrow they could be laughing at the moral panic he caused in the city of Toronto and it’s media. It’s already starting, Saturday Night Live wasn’t just parodying Ford, they were also parodying Toronto City Council and the CBC.

    • OgtheDim

      You think they care?

    • Dinah Might

      How did they parody City Council? They didn’t even appear in the sketch. And the “parody” of CBC was just doing a Minnesota accent.

  • Jim

    American Media. Do your own thing. Don’t read this stupid column.

  • CuJo YYC

    Good comparison and, unbelievably, he’s even more attractive to men than the screeching, howling, lying witch that is Ann Coulter.

  • ward09

    This is a really good list and it is pretty darn spot on, although I wouldn’t quite call Doolittle principled. There were a lot of stories over the months about Ford that we’re stretching the definition of news.

  • Filicia Picken Beauchesne
  • Mr. Dournovo

    I am saddened by the whole behavior of every single person involved in negativity towards the mayor rob ford. No one person is squeeky clean every single person has made mistakes this is how we as people learn. If you think you are better than him, you are wrong, (look yourself in the mirror) we all have trials and tribulations we all want better for ourselves. Now this man has overcome enough of his personal shit to want to do better for all of you by the intention of being toronto’s mayor. Every single thing said noted and perpetuated about rob ford is nothing more than BULLYING. This day and age what have we all gone through and learned about what bullying does. This is extremely sad and unacceptable in my eyes and I hope yours to. Think, these tactics against rob ford, its purely diversion, so that he may not be able to focus on the actual job at hand, who pays for that, city of toronto. now think who is to benefit from such hatred. Rob ford we have all been through shit. I wish you the best, stay strong.

    • vampchick21

      Oh for the love of….seriously? SERIOUSLY???????? He could have retained our sympathies, our understanding of his situation had he chosen to handle it correctly. He instead has chosen to take a childish, boorish, stance and has by his own actions and behaviour lost any claim to our collective sympathy and understanding. He is the one who is bullying people, he and his thug of a brother, and they have been since the start of his mayoral term. Plain and simple. There comes a point when you can no longer take the kindly, understanding route and instead are forced to go tough. You, by your chosen means of showing support for the Mayor are instead enabling him to continue his self destructive behaviour.

      • Mr. Dournovo

        Your obviously an angry individual. Good luck with all that.

        • vampchick21

          You’re obviously an enabler with blinders on. Good luck with that.

          • Mr. Dournovo

            This type of behavior that you are projecting is exactly what I am talking about in my first post.

          • vampchick21

            So what, we should coddle him and tell him he’s wonderful and perfect and not to worry about all those meanies who want him to go to rehab? Kiss the booboos? We’re past that point, and that you can’t see that is amazing and sad at the same time. If he held a private sector job, he’d be out of it already.

          • Guest

            You are completely missing the point. Which I do not wish to co tinue

          • Mr. Dournovo

            You are completely missing the point, to which I honestly do not wish to continue with you. Have a nice day.

          • vampchick21

            Good. Buhbye.

  • Donald Blair

    Now this, I can agree with – I like Ann Coulter because she’s entertaining, but she’s nuts, and very willing to distort the truth to suit her bend. Doug Ford isn’t quite the exact same but damn well near close. In fact, it’s his younger brother who is much more like Coulter. With half the functioning brain cells, on account of the alcohol and crack, maybe. (See, I can be a (insulting) devil’s advocate too…)