Rob Ford is threatening to lay charges against a Toronto Star reporter for allegedly trespassing and taking pictures over the fence behind the Toronto mayor’s Etobicoke home.
But the reporter, Daniel Dale, says in a written account of the incident that he didn’t set foot on Mr. Ford’s property, and that the mayor ran screaming towards him when he spotted the reporter behind his house.
At a news conference in his driveway around 10 p.m. Wednesday, a visibly upset Mr. Ford told reporters that he was home with his wife and two young children when a neighbour rapped on his door to say, “there’s some guy looking over your fence taking pictures.”
“It’s over the top. You may not like my politics, but don’t start taking pictures of my family. My wife’s home, my kids are home, in my backyard. So I ran around the other side, I caught him. It was him [Mr. Dale] He gave me his cellphone, he gave me his tape recorder. Like, what are you doing? Enough is enough ... I caught the guy cold. It’s unbelievable what he did. I’m not going to put up with it. I got the police here and if I have to press charges I will.”
Toronto Police Constable Tony Vella confirmed that police responded to Mr. Ford’s residence around 8 p.m., and that officers were investigating.
As of late Wednesday night, no charges had been laid against the Star reporter.
In his version of events posted to the Star’s website, Mr. Dale wrote that the run-in happened while he was researching a story about Mr. Ford’s request to purchase from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority a plot of ravine land behind his property. The mayor and his wife wrote a letter to the TRCA, saying they hoped to buy the land as a buffer to keep teenagers off their property and to protect their children from prying eyes, the Star reported.
The Star posted Mr. Dale’s story about the potential land acquisition Wednesday night, shortly before his account of his run-in with the mayor went online.
Mr. Dale wrote that he stayed about 10 feet back from the mayor’s wooden fence; Mr. Ford said the reporter stood on a pile of cinder blocks for a better look at the backyard.
“At some point, perhaps 10 or 15 seconds into the encounter, he [the mayor] cocked his fist near his head and began charging at me at a full run. I began pleading with him, as loud as I could, with my hands up, for him to stop,” Mr. Dale wrote. “I yelled, at the top of my lungs, something like, ‘Mayor Ford, I’m writing about the land! I’m just looking at the land! You’re trying to buy the TRCA land!’ Instinctually, I also reached into my pocket to grab my dead phone. I then fiddled with my voice recorder, trying fruitlessly to turn it on so that I would have a recording of any physical violence.”
The Star posted Mr. Dale’s version of events after Mr. Ford told the media, including live television cameras, that he had called Toronto police about the altercation.
“Daniel was on public land. He was not on the mayor’s property,” Bob Hepburn, director of communications for the Star, told The Globe and Mail Wednesday night. He said that as of about 10:30 p.m., police had not contacted Mr. Dale or the Star. He said the Star had no intention of pursuing charges against the mayor for his treatment of Mr. Dale.
The Ford administration and the Star have an acrimonious relationship. The mayor and his office refuse to grant on-the-record interviews to the Star’s reporters. They have at times denied the newspaper official communications, prompting the paper’s management to file a complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner.
The mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, accused the paper Wednesday night of harassing the mayor and his family.
“It has to stop,” the mayor’s brother said. “We are fair game when we leave our driveways, just leave our families alone. This is unacceptable. It is more than crossing a line.”
Councillor Ford said that for some time two men have been following the mayor as well as his mother. He said they have pictures of them and have identified them as reporters.
“This is not the norm. This is not journalism. This is stalking,” said the Etobicoke councillor.
Mr. Hepburn said the councillor’s accusations are false.
“It’s been alleged tonight by some people, it’s been alleged in the past that the Star is harassing the mayor and his family. This is not true,” he said.