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On Rob Ford’s Bigotry

We need to talk less about the perpetrator and more about his victims.

20121112 FordFootball DROSTphoto 0081 640x4731

In one of his very few post-rehab interviews, with the CBC’s Dwight Drummond, Rob Ford tried repeatedly to blame his years of racial slurs, homophobic insults, and misogynistic denigrations on his “disease,” by which he meant his abuse of drugs and alcohol.

While doctors continue to search for a cure for Ford’s racism, the mayor explains that he cannot be held accountable for any of his hateful slurs: drink and drugs poisoned his brain, hijacked his lips, and formed words that mimic the historical discrimination of queers, women, and people of colour.


What disease prompted Ford to demand that the Pride flag, which celebrates queer communities and their allies, be taken down? What ailment caused him, year after year, to vote against community grants that largely support racialized people? Was he drunk when he stood before council in February and proclaimed that the “taxpayers” (not residents or Torontonians) did not want the City to fund Native Child and Family Services, a multi-service centre for First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and Aboriginal people? And if, say, he was drunk at the time, would his claim now be that the alcohol somehow took over his brain, revised his views on the subject, and forced him to proclaim something that on some level he didn’t fundamentally believe in?

Even if we could accept this dodge—and we cannot—that isn’t the point. Ford’s excuses make no difference to the targets of his vile words and actions. It doesn’t matter if you are born a racist, or contract the disease in adolescence or in a drunken stupor: the damage to the people you target is still real and lasting.

One of the reasons it is so difficult to address bigotry is that we tend to focus on the abusers rather than the abused. We spend a lot of time debating whether individual people are racist, misogynistic, or homophobic; we parse their words in search of hidden meanings, dispute whether there’s a difference between making a racist remark and being a racist. Meanwhile, the legion of real people who have been slurred fade into abstraction. Victims of discrimination become points of reference instead of individuals whose vilification deserves immediate attention, opposition, and remedy.

After refusing to address his countless insults and denigrations, and in the face of years of evidence to the contrary, Rob Ford and his say-anything brother Doug are now claiming that the chief magistrate of Toronto is not a raging bigot. Rob Ford is, of course, a world-class bigot. About this there can no longer be any dispute.

Instead of trying to get him to admit this, as flabbergasted reporters have been attempting in vain to do, we should focus on the damage Ford has caused by promoting hatred—the damage done not to him, but to his victims.

Any fool can deny he hates women, Jews, blacks, the homeless, or children with autism (all groups the Fords have targeted) and mouth a meaningless apology in the aftermath of his insults. In large part, what makes a bigot a bigot (what distinguishes him from someone who is not a bigot but has misspoken) is the inability to put the suffering of those he harms ahead of his own shame or inconvenience at being exposed.

Rob Ford has referred to the black children he once coached in football as “fucking minorities.” He has said most of these young men would be dead or in jail without him. He and his brother have repeated the patronizing mantra that no one has done more for black people than the mayor. He will never confess that he thinks of these students as a special class, intrinsically prone to different types of psychology and behaviour than “the rest of us” (that is, than people like Rob Ford). So instead of playing crown prosecutor and continually inquiring about his “real feelings,” the media could simply ask, “What impact do you think your words have had on black Torontonians?”

To supplement this inquiry, we could seek out real people who have felt the sting of the Fords’ prejudice, and deliver their testimony directly to their aggressor. CBC’s Dwight Drummond solicited questions from the public ahead of his feature interview with Ford. Imagine if he had also solicited, and then read to the mayor, the equivalent of victim impact statements for Ford’s use of language like “faggot,” “wop,” “dago,” “nigger,” and “kike.”

Torontonians elected 15 women councillors in 2010: a record for our amalgamated city. Ford did apologize to one of them, mayoral candidate Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence), for what he described as his “hurtful and degrading remarks” about her. (What he said: “I’d like to fucking jam her.”) He did not explain how women on council, or in the public service, or across the city, could ever feel safe working with him after his disgusting comments. He did not say anything about how he might try to make amends—beyond the mere statement that he was sorry—or alter the atmosphere at City Hall.

In focusing more on the victims of hateful speech and less on the victimizers, we can acknowledge that the cost of bigotry is not just—or not primarily—that someone labelled a bigot might find that personally uncomfortable or professionally damaging. It is real suffering visited upon people who have historically endured violence and marginalization just by virtue of their identities. There is a real danger in focusing too much on the awareness or intentions of the speaker: the words always hurt, whether calculated or uttered in ignorance, whether spoken while sober or drunk or high.

Rob Ford cannot admit to being a bigot, because he does not understand what bigotry is. All he knows is that someone is trying to hold him to account, and that he must cling to power at all costs. Ford plays the victim, and leaves the real victims in his wake.


  • Notcleverguy

    Well written.

    The thing I dislike the most about the Fords is how they think a majority of Torontonians are stupid and will but their garbage.

    People now need to take action and heckle these two clowns at every turn, just like Shirtless Joe did.

    We need to send the message that their hiding behind slogans, lies, and unbelievable hypocrisy will no longer be tolerated in the slightest. I’m in no way advocating anything else but making sure the clown brothers hear your voice.

    • Lavender

      Isn’t it great that literally an average Joe, just some shirtless dude out for a jog, was able to lay into them so articulately? If I saw those two buffoons I’d probably get so cheesed I wouldn’t be able to form a coherent sentence. Why have Torontonians been so silent? They should be run off the street every single time they show their faces in public.

      • wklis

        Rob seems to not be able to jog or run on the streets like “shirtless jogger”. He’ll rather hide from everyone in the privacy of the city hall gym.

      • Lutesuite

        Doug Ford is already going into full character assassination mode. Turns out Shirtless Joe is a high school teacher, and Doug is accusing him of constantly subjecting his class to anti-Ford diatribes. Not the way politicians are generally taught to respond to queries from members of the public….

        • marcdanarc

          Doug is probably right.

          • OgtheDim

            And this of course excuses Rob from answering the questions?


            Rob has to answer those questions because he did those things and he hurt people.

            It is NOT up to those asking those questions to be perfect.

          • Lavender

            Based on what prejudice?

          • Max Supernova

            Ford Nation: Making baseless accusations since 2010.

          • luganman

            Doug is probably wrong

          • vampchick21

            Doug is never right. Doug is Captain Bullshit. Doug can’t even figure out what racism is. Doug is evil. Doug is a manipulator without intelligence. Doug lies time after time after time. Doug went after autistic children and claimed to have their PRIVATE police records. Doug stated that a parent of an autistic child can go to hell for daring to call him to task over his statements regarding the autistic group home. Doug is an enabler. Doug will try to step over his brother’s passed out drunk body to make his failed attempt at the position of Mayor. Doug is a bully and a coward. Doug is unfit for public office.

            tl;dr: Are you insane?

          • nevilleross

            No, but he is Ford’s bumboy. Wish that he would admit that, though.

  • sol_chrom

    Not just his words. Maybe we also focus on people who’ve been physically harmed by him. Pam McConnell got trampled, remember?

    • wklis

      That’s a red card from this referee.

    • LHS

      She’s still in physiotherapy because of this incident, according to recent news reports.

  • Notcleverguy

    Keep in mind too, Ford fired good staffers, took away their livelihood for merely suggesting he seek some help, Mark Towhey comes to mind.

  • Alex2

    Many people form opinions based on media reports. And the media reports are master-minded by the Fords. Media are civil and abide by their professionalism. They can’t stand up and say “This is a piece of crap”…So let the rebellion begin from the grassroots up and force the media to cover their attempts. Just as Rob and Doug forces media to report their statements in quotes or to report they wouldn’t answer the question, they get the desired attention. Be as media savy as the Fords and resort to heckling and booing him every where either of these two present themselves in public when media are present, and be prepared to be interviewed. Just a simple “He is disgusting” is sufficient.

  • Pat Anderson

    I don’t believe he has apologized directly, face-to-face, to Karen Stintz. He mentioned her in his big public apology on Monday, but has not gone to her to apologize. Big difference.

    • Matt The Golem

      He had plenty of time in the past 60 days to call Warmington, and Sandro, and Doug. He had lots of time to party with Leeann at the spa. He had time for shopping, and selfies. Yet somehow he could not find the time to call Stintz to apologize. it was not until he was back in Toronto in front of the media and the cameras, that he deigned to offer up an apology. Not to her, but for the assembled media to relay to her.

    • Lavender

      And what about his wife?!?

      • Canadianskeezix

        Sadly, she is undoubtedly the least likely to ever get an apology from Ford, and the one who is most adversely affected now that Rob Ford is back in town.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        I’m sure he’s already written her a cheque for that.

    • Canadianskeezix

      Thank you, Pat. My thoughts exactly. It’s not really an apology if you don’t actually speak to the person in question. All he did was a stage-managed mea culpa designed to assist with his reelection.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      No, he hasn’t. She’s said that he needs to call her or talk in person for her to accept any apology. Ford isn’t going to apologize…he’s a coward. The stuff he said on Monday including his “apology” to Stintz was to get the media off his back and try and get this crisis behind him.

  • m_ax

    This was excellent, very eloquently put.

    It was quite the let-down to go from celebrating Pride (an event not without its problems, but I can’t deny that it puts me in a great mood) to having to listen to this ignorant bigot make excuses for his ignorance and bigotry.

    Like you Desmond I am tired of the media’s focus on whether or not Ford really thinks that way. He does. Stop being surprised by it and start talking to people affected by his comments about the impact those comments have on their lives. I don’t care what his explanation is for it because simply put there IS NO explanation for it.

    I’m continuously amazed that the people I know who will admit to voting for him are surprised by his bigotry, because this is nothing new, and had they paid attention before the 2010 election, they would have had a pretty good idea of the kind of person they were voting for.

    • Lavender

      Exactly. Anyone who was paying attention already knew about his public outbursts, getting kicked out of that game and then lying about it, the public lynching comments, the constant voting against social programs… and STILL people don’t want to believe.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      Some of them knew but they hated the VRT and wanted that $60 bucks back. Ford played on people’s resentment of government and taxes and a lot of people were willing to overlook his obvious faults.

      • NayChan

        A lot of people are stupid and easily swayed and I don’t think anyone really cared too much about the 60 dollars until the Twin Clowns brought it up as an issue. Their politics are divide and conquer only these two clowns are too stupid to even do that correctly. They have nothing. They are nothing and they will continue to be nothings

        • bobloblawbloblawblah

          A good deal of people resented paying that 60 bucks when people out of town weren’t paying it _ I knew people who hated it. The Fords were master at playing on people’s resentments. It won’t work for them this time, though. The only alternative to Ford back in 2010 was Smitherman who a lot people didn’t like. Ford and his loud mouth thug brother are on a fast train heading towards the dustbin of history.

          • NayChan

            I voted for Pants. I liked him. Good heart and cares for the city, but over all you are right, lackluster candidates 2010 helped create the mess that is Ford.

          • rich1299

            Rob Ford also had a very effective campaign manager in 2010 who did a masterful job considering what he had to work with. Ford managed to keep his impulses under control for most of it as well, he clenched his mouth shut and stared off into the sky so often you could tell he was really struggling to hold it together.

            This time around his campaign manager is Doug who can’t even control his own mouth. I’m sure no professional campaign manager wanted anything to do with Ford no matter how much it paid so Doug got stuck doing it.

        • Kay53

          The VRT did anger a lot of people. The first time I went to renew my license and found out about it I was really pissed – then I realized I didn’t have to pay since I live in Mississauga. It was a particular problem for those who live in the suburbs & have a long commute where public transit isn’t a viable option.

  • malcolm33

    In vino veritas.

    I don’t buy this drunken stupor BS for a second.

  • OgtheDim

    I like the general idea, but much of this article still focuses on using the truth of the victims to confront Rob to some purpose.

    That is wasting our time.

    There is never going to be a cathartic moment here.

    Ford will never accept consequences.

    There is never going to be a truth and reconciliation committee for the Ford years.

    Where victimisation is happening, we should recognise this for the sake of the victims and to drive home to those many many people who still want to see Rob be mayor that there is a social cost to his supporters for being behind Rob Ford.

    The truth is supporting Rob Ford means you support the Dixon Bloods and the life and work of Sandro Lissi.

    It means you are OK with people being marginalised due to the words of this man.

    It means you put the idea of your bank account growing ahead of treating people with respect.

    Put that in front of people, and they will individually turn from him.

    Unfortunately, none of the mayoral candidates has the guts to do this.

    And the media isn’t trusted.

    • mytwocentsworth

      I don’t care about confronting the Fords, but I would love to hear from or about the people he has marginalized. So I’ll go first.

      I’m a left-leaning pinko in the Ford/Cherry world, and we don’t matter to this ‘mayor’. Since Day One. Even though we are taxpayers.
      I’m also a woman, and Ford’s comments about his wife and Karen Stintz made me feel sick.
      For nearly four years, I haven’t had a mayor who gave a —- about me.

      Next, please ……..

  • cv

    Yes I would love the focus to shift! Rather than giving those Ford imbeciles any more air/print, let’s hear from those who have had to deal with the Fordcalypse aftermath.


    he needs to be driven away with bullhorns…… anyone know his schedule?

    • Punned_It

      No one. He refuses to make it public. Even his staff don’t know where he is sometimes.

    • HotDang

      The Star routinely makes freedom of information requests to get his schedule, meaning they see it months after the fact.

  • cv

    Good job DC. And now you have your next assignment or two: interview Ford’s victims.

    • Desmond Cole

      I accept.

      • HotDang

        Run for councillor again, too.

        • Desmond Cole

          lol, one assignment at a time!

  • CYW

    I’ve been known to have a cocktail or two … or three … or even four and I’ve never, ever called anyone a $#%$& or any variation of that theme.

  • Guest

    You have to remember the early days of Ford’s term in office were dominated by a mix of genuine “work with the mayor” sentiment and resignation to the idea that a sea change had taken place and anyone not bowing to Mammo’s thumb (which indicated Ford’s desired support for council motions) would be swept away.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    You have to remember the early days of Ford’s term in office were dominated by a mix of genuine “work with the mayor” sentiment and resignation to the idea that a sea change had taken place and anyone not bowing to Mammo’s thumb (which indicated Ford’s desired support for council motions) would be swept away. It took quite a while for that to change.

    • Patrick Smyth

      I don’t believe councillors are sent to CH to “work with the mayor” but I do believe there is a culture that cowers. It existed before Ford and the ill-effects of it are destructive.

      • dsmithhfx

        Term limits would get rid of that.

        • Patrick Smyth

          Yes, and some more heft in the powers of the Integrity Commissioner.

        • David Church

          But term limits also mean that mayors and councillors who are widely regarded as popular, dedicated and efficient (such as Hazel McCallion in Mississauga) wouldn’t be able to run for reelection.

          Personally, I’d rather see bad politicians up for reelection get soundly rejected by voters.

          • dsmithhfx

            We would have better representation by drawing from a larger pool of candidates, rather than the current system which favors incumbency. Popularity isn’t really a valid measure of whether a politician is either effective or honest. I don’t think McCallion is a particularly good example to cite in view of the real estate scandal involving her son and her role. Obviously no system is going to be without its flaws, but surely it’s time to try something else. Term limits.

          • nevilleross

            Also, it would make sure that politicians with fresh ideas are in power serving the people rather than politicians that can’t really do it anymore (I’m looking at you, Kyle Rae, and all of the foolishness that happend with you late in your time as city councilor!) If all that being an incumbent these days is to be a drunken asshole who doesn’t understand public transit, a sexist asshole that goes into the lesbian march with a camcorder looking for ‘indecency’, a behind-the-times idiot that believes that having dance events at the CNE grounds will cause deaths and debauchery, or a supposedly great councilor that couldn’t even say something of not at the death of a homeless man who died in his riding, then it’s time to make sure said people can’t just have an automatic lock onto a city council seat.

      • bobloblawbloblawblah

        Not in so many words but there are 44 people on Council and the taxpayers expect them to work together. That’s how things get done — the various councillors make compromises to get legislation passed. It hasn’t worked out well for Ford though, he’s as stubborn as a mule and thinks every one should do as he says. Predictably, no one does because people resent being ordered around by an imbecile.

  • Fred

    Rob Ford IS the disease.

  • rich1299

    What’s mostly concerned me as a gay man is the way Rob Ford, and others in the public spotlight like him, embolden other bigots to act out. It makes their own bigotry seem more socially acceptable so repeated more often and the more its repeated the more it spreads and the greater chance of violence. I’ve seen it happen with his anti-LGBTQ bigotry back in the last election, I’ve little doubt its the same for other minority groups he’s disparaged as well. Though bigotry is common enough in our society that I doubt any person was specifically harmed by Ford’s bigotry but on the other hand it was our society that was harmed by his bigotry since it helped make bigotry more socially acceptable in some circles which could very well lead to real harm in specific situations.

    if you ever watch how the comments on any news article dealing with
    minorities unfolds the number of bigoted comments seems to grow
    exponentially. if there have been no bigoted comments the chances of
    their being one is low, but as soon as there is one more come in quick
    succession, the more bigoted comments the more others also post bigoted

    The reason why Smitherman’s sexual orientation was an issue in the last municipal election was because Ford made it an issue. The only reason why Wynne’s sexual orientation wasn’t an issue in the recent election was because none of her opponents made it an issue. It could easily be argued that seeing sexual orientation become an issue politically for Smitherman might keep other LGBTQ people out of politics, but then again there was Wynne, so its hard to say what sort of impact Ford’s bigotry has had.

    Though its been downplayed it is a big deal that Wynne is the first openly LGBTQ head of gov’t in the entire Commonwealth. Its something I thought was impossible just a few years ago, I had no doubt Smitherman would lose votes for being gay and assumed it’d always be an issue for enough of the electorate to keep parties from choosing openly LGBTQ candidates. However times have changed so much so fast especially in a city like Toronto.

    Does anyone know of any increase in hate crimes of any sort since Ford first ran for mayor?

    • m_ax

      Agree 100%. People keep asking how it’s possible that Toronto could have a homophobe/racist/misogynist, etc. for a mayor. To me the least surprising thing about his comments, other than the fact that he said them, is that there are a number of people in this city who agree with him.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        This is largely the fault of the media. Volumes have been written dissecting his various economic claims, chief among them the billion dollars saved figure, but his racist, homophobic, and misogynist comments don’t seem to hold the press’ attention for more than a day after the latest video or recording is publicized.

        • nevilleross

          Which press? NOW Magazine has been the canary in the coalmine going after Ford and his bullshit claims since 2010! The media to blame in this care are the mainstream outlets.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            I’m aware of Now‘s contribution to the Ford story, but they are just one outlet, and a print one at that. An issue can’t go by without one of Ford’s many past or present misdeeds being mentioned, even tangentally, but that isn’t true of most newspapers or broadcast news.

    • Notcleverguy

      Rich I agree completely. As someone who has fought for equal rights no matter what your race, religion, orientation or politics are, It saddens me that two dim-wits, who enjoy all the human rights that aren’t afforded by some, can undo the hard work that many have put forth in trying to educate the public that everyone, absolutely everyone needs to be treated with human dignity both by the general public and by the law..

      I for one think Toronto and Canada in general have made strides towards this, and are far further than most places. Giving two guys who just don’t get it at all a platform to spread ignorance kills me every time.

      • torontothegreat

        It’s sad that the same freedoms that protect us from people like Ford, also give people like Ford a platform. I’ll take the good with the bad, but you see this in the U.S. all the time and yet the perpetrators just don’t “get it”.

  • Desmond Cole

    Roger that.

  • OgtheDim

    Well he ain’t going to East York any time soon again. He thought he had a remnant of the Case Ootes types that would still support him and that is probably fractured away to others.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      East York was the only area of the inner city that Ford won in 2010. It’s gotta concern him that he’s getting this reception out there.

  • Punned_It

    Here’s an idea.

    If you happen to run into Ford, ask him to take a picture with you (he can’t resist that).

    Start recording video and ask him one of the many questions he has not answered – like why he won’t support the Pride celebration despite the fact that it brings more money into the city than TIFF does.

    Record his answer.

    Post it.

    If he won’t answer journalists, perhaps he will answer taxpayers.

  • “racialized people”

    “racialized people”

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      You forgot to log in before posting, Joe.

  • carswell

    Very well stated. Thank you.

  • Al Truistic

    Well said!

  • luganman

    The Ford’s have had a pretty easy ride of it until lately. Their boasts have gone unchallenged and their attacks have gone unquestioned. That finally is starting to change.
    What took so long?

  • Tonyfromteeoh

    The drugs and alcohol that Mayor Ford are blaming only serve to reveal what is really in his heart. Alcohol and drugs make you uninhibited so you don’t hold back on what you would say and do when you are sober.

    • Devin Ens

      I agree that all the evidence points to Ford actually being a bigot, but if you think that you only say what is really in your heart when drunk, then either you have never been really drunk (I mean falling-down blackout drunk), or you are a very lucky drunk. Lots of people say and do things on drugs that they would NEVER contemplate otherwise. Drugs don’t just lower inhibitions, they alter your brain chemistry. Who you are is a function of your chemistry, so an inebriated person is literally not the same person they are sober.

      • Notcleverguy

        I agree, but Ford has shown plenty of bigotry, homophobia and misogyny while seemingly sober. Far far too many times to sit there and blame his “disease” for it.

      • David Church

        I don’t buy that rationalization. If you truly never have had a racist thought at anytime in your life, why would one suddenly pop into your head because you are drunk?

        The reality most of us don’t want to admit, even to ourselves, is we humans often do instinctly identify, categorize, blame and negate those people who are different than us, especially when we are frightened, angered or when presented with familiar situations. But the vast majority also quickly recognize those thoughts are primitive and wrong and we would never say them aloud – even when we’re drunk. (We might attempt tasteless jokes.)

        Truly racist and bigoted people have learned that they shouldn’t speak their mind in public. When they are drunk, they lose that inhibition. They say what they believe.

  • bobloblawbloblawblah

    Here’s the deal: the Fords are assholes. They lie and bully to get their way, which is a poor strategy for any politician because it leaves them isolated.

    They’ll continue to lie and attack those who call them on it because they’re assholes who think they should be in charge, never mind that they haven’t a clue how this city runs or an idea in their empty heads.

    Rob Ford will never apologize for his bigotry. That’s what makes him Rob Ford — he’s stubborn and will never change.

    The lies will keep coming and the attacks will keep coming. Not that the media should stop asking for answers from our lowlife Twin Mayors.

    The Fords won’t change. They are nothing more than ignorant thugs. People need to work to get rid of these awful dimwits and they need to encourage others to get out and vote. Toronto needs to get rid of these vile dirtbags and we need to send them a message on October 27th, loud and clear: we don’t want your brand of divisive politics and we don’t want you at City Hall.

  • Escot Gantsblanches

    The one and only thing that would make this article better would be if the 3rd paragraph were re-written thusly:

    “Nigger, please.”

    I suspect that’s what the author ‘wanted’ to write but couldn’t.

  • Micko

    I’ve been bigoted for being Catholic just like many in TO. Don’t tell me what a bigot is.

    • vampchick21

      Methinks you missed the point of the article.

    • Francine Detwiler

      When you say you’ve “been bigoted”, does that mean you have perceived yourself to have been the victim of bigotry? You say “Don’t tell me what a bigot is” – how does your perception/definition of the term “bigot” differ from Mr. Cole’s? I’m really not trying to be confrontational, I’m genuinely curious.

    • Notcleverguy

      I am a bigot apparently, I prefer green granny smith apples.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      Maybe you mean discriminated against? “I’ve been bigoted…” makes no sense.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      By an elected official? Which one?

    • torontothegreat

      Man, you Catholics have just had it SOOOOO hard :P


  • hddddd

    about a third of council are women but how many of them are on the mayors handpicked 12 member executive committee. would you believe none. it consists entirely of 50+ men and with one exception they are all from the suburbs. talk about being inclusive………not

    • OgtheDim

      To be fair, he started out with a few women on.

      They all left.

      Kelly isn’t going to change the exec before the election.

  • christinaarcher

    Get rid of them. They have not helped anyone. (Except themselves).

  • sol_chrom

    Just a nudge. Right. So if I held you responsible for running me over, I guess I’d be taking advantage of the situation for personal gain.

    And of course if someone like Perks or Vaughan did it to you, you wouldn’t be whining like a little bitch, would you.

    You’re the pride of Ford Nation, aren’t you.