Every Sunday, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug, host The City, a two-hour talk show on Newstalk 1010. We listen so you don't have to.
In the wake of the mayor’s friend Sandro Lisi being charged with extortion and Chief Bill Blair announcing that police have the video in which Rob Ford allegedly smokes crack, this week’s installment of the mayor’s radio show is the most anticipated yet. It’s the closest the city has come to a state of the union address in modern political history, and it comes amid a crisis of confidence. Several councillors, the mayor’s former chief of staff, and all four major dailies have called on the mayor to address this situation head-on, asking for everything from a leave of absence, to a full response to media questions, to taking better care of his health. After a private meeting with the mayor, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told reporters that the mayor would make an announcement on this radio show, but gave few hints as to what that might be. We’ll liveblog throughout the show, as we learn more.
12:40: The mayor has arrived in the Newstalk 1010 studios at Yonge and St. Clair. It’s all a bit surreal to be covering the mayor’s movements so breathlessly, but this is the point we’ve reached.
12:50: As we wait for the mayor’s radio show to begin, a Newstalk interview by potential mayoral candidate John Tory plays. It’s about the systemic importance of investing in mental health care, and it’s unlike anything we can expect from the Rob and Doug show.
12:57: For those of you without radios (which is likely a lot of you since it is 2013), you can listen to the program here. There’s also a live video feed if you prefer your radio in motion picture form.
1:03: The Newstalk 1010 news update tells us that when the mayor drove in, his radio was playing “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Meanwhile, outside the studio, a bicycle features a sign that tells the mayor to “Get cracking and resign.”
1:06: Here we go. U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” plays the show in, and the mayor sounds sombre.
1:07: Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, addresses the unfolding scandal:
“I have been thinking for a long time about what I am going to say today. First of all, I believe that this video–I want the police chief, Bill Blair, to release this video for every single person in this city to see. That is the right thing to do, and Chief, I’m asking you to release this video now. Whatever this video shows—whatever this video shows, folks—Toronto residents deserve to see it, and people need to judge for themselves what they see on this video.
I support the police. I have never wavered in supporting these hardline–hardworking frontline officers. They work day in, day out to keep our city safe. They are the best, the best, absolutely the best police force in the world.
I’m the first one to admit, friends—I’m the first one to admit: I am not perfect. I have made mistakes. I have made mistakes, and all I can do right now is apologize for the mistakes. I sincerely, sincerely apologize to my family, to the citizens, the taxpayers of this great city, and to my colleagues on Toronto City Council. Unfortunately, unfortunately, I cannot change the past. I can just move forward and learn from the past, which I’ll assure you, I am doing.
I love this city. I absolutely adore the people of this city. And I love helping people when they call me, and I go to their front door and help them. I want to move forward. But, I also know to move forward, I have to make changes in my life, which I can assure sure that I will do. I love the work I do, and I’m going to keep doing it. I want to keep working for the people of this city. And there is still a lot, a lot of work to be done. I want to continue doing the job that I was elected to do three years ago, and next October 27, let the people decide on who they want to run this city.
I’m going to continue fighting for the little guy, fighting for the taxpayers like I always have. And we’re going to build on our long list of accomplishments. I want to work with the people who want to work with me. I do not want to work with people who want to play politics.
I also want to thank the thousands, thousands of residents who have been calling, emailing, and writing me to express their support during this very, very difficult time.
There’s no one to blame but myself, and I take full responsibility for it. And without your support, there is no way I could keep going. And I want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart, and I am going to continue to do the job that I was elected to do, and friends, I really don’t know what more I can say right now.
If there was a button I could push to change everything, I would. But unfortunately, there is no button that exists.”
So this is the mayor’s apology to the city. He does not for a moment say what his apology is for, how he will learn from it, and what he will do differently. He says he takes full responsibility, but does not outline any actions to show the responsibility he refers to. He claims to support the police, yet demands they share evidence in a criminal proceeding with the entire city—which would compromise an ongoing case.
Rob Ford has lived his entire life without facing consequences for his actions, and it doesn’t look like he has suddenly gained the introspection to change that now.
1:14: Doug says the mayor is “honest as the day is long,” but he does not mention that with daylight savings time, the days just got a lot shorter. Without irony, he adds that his brother has to “keep his nose clean, and move forward.”
1:15: The mayor tells the media, “Please do not come to my house…for the sake of my kids.” He adds that he’ll meet with the media anywhere else instead. This has not been the experience of the media. On Twitter, the Toronto Star, Metro Morning, and the Grid all take him up on the offer. Torontoist does too, and would love to have an extended interview with the mayor anytime, anywhere.
1:17: Rob shifts to talking about his policies, saying that “We got a subway built in Scarborough” and promising to reduce the land transfer tax by 10 per cent. The former has not occurred, and the latter is very unlikely to happen.
1:20: The mayor announces that he will hire a driver—a long overdue decision. Doug calls the decision a “positive change,” which it would be. We can only hope this new person will be more suitable than the mayor’s last driver.
1:28: Doug calls the week “rambunctious,” says Rob “did the right thing” and that politics is “vicious” and “nasty.” It is difficult to say what this “right thing” that Rob has done is, because his non-apology does not feel sufficient. And to blame the past week’s “rambunctious” events on vicious politics is disingenuous; they are events of Rob’s own making, fully enabled by his irresponsible older brother—and to blame them on politics is to avoid responsibility.
1:34: Rob reiterates his apology: “I sincerely apologize, and there’s absolutely no excuses, no one to blame but myself, [but] I’m going to weather the storm.”
1:36: We are now at the portion of the show during which Rob and Doug blame the media for all their woes, despite Rob just saying that there are no excuses. Doug Ford, the voice of moderation, says 50 per cent are out there to “politically kill” Rob.
1:39: The mayor says he’s the “first one to support Toronto Community Housing” but can’t support having 75 units of housing on the waterfront, as he argues the property is too valuable. In other news, TCHC currently has the longest waiting list it has ever had, with over 163,000 people waiting for 90,000 units.
1:40: The mayor says Toronto has “enough parkland.” This is probably not a popular statement among people who live in Toronto, who tend to be rather fond of parks. Also not popular: by previously revealing the confidential purchase price for the land to be turned into a park, the mayor has opened the City up to a lawsuit.
1:43: Rob and Doug have a debate over performance bonuses for City staff, and Rob says he fights for the poor while Doug fights for the rich. Of course, just four minutes ago Rob opposed those community housing units because The Poors should live away from the water, which is reserved for rich people.
1:48: Doug Ford, who watches a lot of Discovery Channel and History Television programs, says he likes David Suzuki. He specifically admires how much money the CBC environmentalist is able to make, and likes the programs in which he chases polar bears.
1:55: Rob finally offers a few specifics for his apology. “For example, the Danforth. That was pure stupidity. I shouldn’t have got hammered down at the Danforth. If you’re going to have a couple of drinks, you stay at home, and that’s it. You don’t make a public spectacle of yourself. Just, stuff like that. I-I can’t…if you’re going to have a good time…[Take] St. Patrick’s day, another incident. It got a little out of control. I can’t change the past. I can assure people—hopefully, it doesn’t happen again. And I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. But to sit here and say, ‘I’m going to lose 100 pounds and be a new person in six months or a year’? I’m not going to mislead people. I’m going to do my very best to make sure these mistakes don’t happen again. I don’t know what else to say, Doug. I don’t know what else to say.”
Okay, so “hopefully, it doesn’t happen again” isn’t much of a promise. And you say you won’t mislead people, but the past six months have been all about misleading people—about substance abuse, a video, your relationship with Sandro Lisi, and more. Worth noting is that the mayor has not said he is an alcoholic, nor has he mentioned drug use in the slightest. And he hasn’t even begun to explain a months-long criminal investigation.
1:56: Doug tells Rob not to have too many “pops” in the future, because, “There will be two hits. Me hitting you, and you hitting the ground.” They may love each other, but this is not a healthy relationship.
1:57: Doug Ford, the mayor’s number one enabler: “You’re going to curb your drinking, especially in public. No one is saying, Rob, don’t have a drink ever again. Curb the drinking, not out in public. Stay in your basement, have a few pops. That’s it.” Rob says he couldn’t agree with Doug more.
This is terrible advice, and Doug is the wrong person to give it. After all, he’s the one who quashed an intervention for his brother in 2012, has repeatedly lied for him, and has laid the blame for any problems on political opponents. Now he says that it’s the fact that other people can see Rob Ford being intoxicated that’s the problem, rather than the drinking itself? And that the solution is to drink alone? No, the main problem for Rob Ford is the likes of Doug Ford, who convinces him that he doesn’t need to change his behaviour, just get away with it.
2:01: Doug says that they should take a look at one “sector” of Rob’s support: the “ethnic community.” “You know why you have massive, massive, support in the ethnic community? It’s because a lot of these folks have come from a country where there’s corruption and nastiness, and with you, Rob—you’re an honest guy, you aren’t corrupt.” Oh, tell me more about what this monolithic, homogenous “ethnic community” thinks, Doug. This is my listening face.
2:10: Lawrence on line one asks how much money the chief of police has spent following the mayor around for the past few months. He says the criminal activities are from the police, and they’re interfering with the democratic process. He also wants fluoride out of the drinking water. Really.
2:11: Lewis calls in and suggests that a city-wide press conference should be held if the alleged video is released, so that every citizen could ask the mayor a question. Lewis says this would be a good way for the mayor to avoid being lynched on his property, because lynching is not good.
2:13: Caller Marilyn says she’s not a hater, but she finds it tough to explain to her five children that what the mayor is doing is not okay. She urges him to take a leave of absence.
2:17: Caller Chris says Rob is “in a really good situation” because he can be an inspiration to people who have struggled with similar problems. The mayor reiterates that he’s not perfect and will work through it. Still no word on hard drug use, homophobic and racist slurs, or potential connections to extortion or the Anthony Smith murder.
2:18: Our next caller is on line five, and her name is Katherine. Let’s listen to what she has to say.
“Hello, Rob. I’m 81, and I was a great supporter of you in your campaign. But I want you to listen to me,” she says in a firm but gentle voice.
“I want you to do yourself, but mostly the biggest favour you could do anybody, is for your beautiful wife and children. I want you to take a medical leave. The city will survive. Just a medical leave. I’m asking for you to do this. You need it. And I want Doug to quit being your enabler. Telling you to go down [to the] cellar for your pops, that isn’t helpful for you in the situation you’re in right now. I hope and pray you’ll listen to me. I’m 81, and please listen to me. Your family deserves better. Okay, Rob?”
Katherine just said exactly what the mayor needed to hear, and did it in the way he needed to hear it. For this, she deserves applause from people across Toronto.
Rob and Doug cut to commercial, and Doug says he wants to address the enabler part of her comments when they get back. Curiously, he does not mention wanting to address the rest of her concerns.
2:25: Doug says he’s not an enabler at all, and as evidence, offers up the claim that he “beats Rob down” more than Adam Vaughan does. This ignores the fact that there are all kinds of enablers, and speaks to a complicated and codependent fraternal relationship marked by assumptions that should be challenged.
2:26: Doug reiterates that he never sees Rob drink. If he has an alcohol problem, then that’s a red flag. But given the evidence, it’s more likely another instance of Doug being dishonest.
2:36: Kris on line three asks what exactly Rob Ford is apologizing for. Rob says he thought he made himself clear, but goes over it again. Rob cites the aforementioned Danforth and St. Patrick’s Day incidents, and adds texting while driving. This is not about what Doug might call “a couple of pops.” This is about a pattern of lies and hypocrisy, a relationship to criminal activities, and potential efforts to cover up an incriminating video. It’s about homophobic and racist remarks, a potential connection to beatings, a stabbing and a murder—and where the mayor fits in. It is about the basic moral authority—not to mention political competence—of the mayor, and whether or not a mayor’s office with such compromised integrity can move forward. This is *not* about texting while driving or being inebriated on two occasions.
2:41: The mayor says that, as far as fiscal policy goes, he’s “the best mayor the city has ever had.”
2:44: Doug says Rob is not the “typical BS-ing politician” who tells the people what they want to hear. He then goes on to call him a populist, which can be pretty close to the opposite of the definition he just provided.
2:47: Alex says while it’s understandable that Rob can’t comment on a video he hasn’t seen, he must know what drugs he has ingested with a glass pipe, and then asks him to comment on that. Predictably, Rob says he can’t comment on a video he hasn’t seen and moves on without addressing the thrust of the question.
2:51: Our new caller compares Rob to JFK, and says that he’s just getting railroaded by the corrupt media who are controlled by other “globalist” and “GMO” interests. He makes an exception for Joe Warmington. Doug then says that he shares some of this caller’s views, although he doesn’t say he’d like to subscribe to his newsletter.
2:55: The Fords just fielded their last caller, which means Toronto Star journalist Robyn Doolittle will not have her call fielded. Earlier in the show, Rob and Doug had claimed that they don’t screen calls, are willing to meet with media anywhere aside from the mayor’s home, and are willing to listen to all comers. Of course, they’ve also referred to Doolittle’s and the Star‘s stories as being written by pathological liars, and yet here we are.
3:00: Doug Ford blesses Ford Nation, and the show ends.
So the latest strategy for managing the scandal seems to be the following:
1) Demand that the police release the video, which they can’t, because it is before the courts in a separate criminal proceeding.
2) Say that you can’t comment on the contents of the video or your relationship with Sandro Lisi, because of matters before the courts. When asked what substances you’ve ever smoked from a glass pipe, dodge the question.
3) Apologize, but do not say what you are apologizing for, aside from two incidents that have already been made public. Do not admit you have a problem.
4) Say that you’ll curb your drinking—which you do not say is problem drinking—by drinking alone in the basement.
5) Do not mention or admit to drug use, the hypocrisy of your actions, lying, or your potential connection to sprawling criminal activities.
6) Say that you’ll continue on as mayor because you really like it, and you are the best ever at it.
In the end, the mayor “apologized” without really apologizing, and promised things would be different, but didn’t explain how or why. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Rob Ford, who will perform an apologetic charade when he needs to, without really understanding all of the underlying concerns.
Two out of five pops.
3:05: But wait, folks, there’s more! Because this is a special recap, we’re doing bonus coverage of the Mark Towhey radio show that immediately follows the mayor’s. He’s the mayor’s former chief of staff, and reportedly urged him to go to rehab in May before being fired.
We shall call this the gravy hour.
3:10: Towhey says that he knows more about the mayoral saga than he has commented on publicly, but also less than the public probably thinks he knows. For context, former mayoral press secretary Adrienne Batra once said that Ford’s staff only knew the mayor’s whereabouts about half of the time.
3:13: Towhey, a staunch libertarian, argues that the public has a right to ask questions of the mayor—but not necessarily to know the answers. He compares public interest in the Ford scandal to the voyeurism involved in following a Lindsay Lohan scandal, but this ignores a crucial difference: Lohan’s escapades are not a dominant force in shaping public discourse, funded by the public and held to the standards that accompany public office.
3:20: Towhey says that he expected the mayor to “put his chin down and bulldoze forward,” as he did. He cites Ford’s mayoral mandate as a reason for him to stay in office, but this reasoning has some flaws. After all, political legitimacy is derived not only from elections but also from the consent of the governed. Now, polls aren’t everything, but 60 per cent of the public believes he should resign. Winning an election is not a blank cheque for bad behaviour when it comes to politicians, and credibility needs to be an ongoing characteristic.
3:27: Caller Jennifer says she does not accept the mayor’s “apology” at all. She argues that the big deal is who the mayor has been fraternizing with and the fact that he has lied.
3:29: Caller Doug says he completely agrees with Jennifer. He’s irate, and says we can’t trust a mayor who evades the truth and tells lies. He adds that he disagrees with Towhey—knowing whether the mayor is a “crackhead” is not voyeurism, but a matter of public interest.
3:37: Towhey is now arguing that the Toronto mayoral race is the Super Bowl of Canadian politics. With the length of the race (10 months), the amount of money needed to be raised, and over 100 debates to attend, he’s right.
3:40: Towhey now has political professional Bernie Morton on the show. Morton ran Rocco Rossi’s 2010 mayoral campaign and also serves as a vice president for Sussex, the most successful lobbying firm at City Hall.
3:50: Towhey’s gravy hour is getting boring, but over on 640, Rob Ford answers questions from host Lorne Honickman. On Twitter, people are outraged at the softballs he gets as questions. But here’s some context: Honickman has also been Ford’s lawyer. Journalism!
3:56: Meanwhile, Toronto Star ace photographer Steve Russell captures the press attention the mayor tries to avoid as he leaves the radio station.
4:00: And that was the gravy hour. I guess it was nice to have, but not a must-have.
And with that, the live recap is out. We’ll do some more updates and add some more quotes shortly.
Thanks for following along, and God bless Raccoon Nation.