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Mayor Rob Ford at his annual ‘Ford Fest’ barbeque on Sept. 7, 2012 (J.P. MOCZULSKI for The Globe and Mail)
Mayor Rob Ford at his annual ‘Ford Fest’ barbeque on Sept. 7, 2012 (J.P. MOCZULSKI for The Globe and Mail)

Marcus Gee

Openness could help Fords with media Add to ...

The Ford brothers’ enemies list is growing.

First the Toronto Star was in their bad books. The mayor and his brother refused to talk to Star reporters, accusing them of bias. Then came The Globe and Mail. After The Globe’s city hall bureau reported on the mayor’s use of city staff to help with his football coaching, Doug Ford went on CBC radio to tell a Globe reporter to “get off her lazy backside and do her due diligence.”

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Now the Fords are accusing the media in general of being out to get them. When city hall reporters tried to ask Doug Ford some questions after a committee meeting on Monday, he told them “all you guys have burned your bridge, so I have no comment.” As he walked away, he muttered, “bunch of pricks.”

He told the Toronto Sun later that he said that in “the heat of the moment,” but when radio talk show host Arlene Bynon of AM640 questioned him later in the day about the anatomical insult, he said: “They are. It’s very simple. In my opinion, they are. Not all of them, because you’re wonderful, but a lot them are ruthless and will do anything to make sure we don’t stop the gravy train.”

A day earlier, on the brothers’ weekly Newstalk1010 radio show, Doug Ford called the media “sucky little kids” who “whine and cry and moan” and “sensationalize and lie through their teeth.” His brother, Mayor Rob Ford chimed in: “They’re pathological liars. That’s what drives me nuts.”

The brothers even took a shot at the very station that gave them their show, complaining about an item that ran during the news break about who was paying city expenses for a Team Toronto trip to Chicago last week.

The Fords say the media have ignored all the good things they’ve done. “We’ve done more in this administration than any other administration ever has,” said the mayor on the Sunday radio show, perhaps exaggerating a bit. “And the media just – I don’t know what, I don’t know what they want. I guess they want bankruptcy. I guess they want a ghost town.”

In fact, he has received quite a bit of good coverage for his achievements: killing the car-registration tax, cutting costs, contracting out garbage collection in parts of the city and reaching union deals assuring labour peace with inside and outside workers. But those things often get overshadowed by what you might call goofball eruptions. When Mr. Ford calls the police after a comedian shows up on his driveway, or confronts a reporter who is checking out a parcel of land the mayor wants to buy, or gets caught reading in his car on the Gardiner, he has no one but himself to blame for landing in the headlines.

He should have known that using city-paid staff to help him out with his football coaching would land him in the soup, especially given how he used to go after other councillors for little things like renting bunny suits or buying office coffee makers. He should have known that it wasn’t kosher to personally demand road repairs on the street outside his family business.

When the media jumped on these stories, it wasn’t hounding the mayor. It was doing its job. Any mayor in any major city would have faced questions over this sort of thing. Even Doug Ford seemed to acknowledge that when he gave a toned-down interview to Global News on Tuesday. “Rob and I aren’t angels, by any means and I don’t think the media are either,” he said. “They are trying to get the story, which I understand.”

The worst of the whole business is that the mayor doesn’t even seem to understand when he is offside. When reporters asked him about the street-paving affair on Friday, he said he had not asked for or received any preferential treatment. No, the mayor of the city merely summoned senior city officials to his office to call for action on unscheduled street repairs at his family’s plant so the road would look nice for the company’s 50th anniversary? No pressure there.

The mayor could dodge a lot of the flak he is getting simply by being more open with the media.

If reporters on his Chicago trip peppered him with questions about the football affair, it was because Mr. Ford had avoided them in Toronto and refused to give any explanation for why he used city staff at his football practices, why he hired a former university quarterback to work in his office or who had paid for the city car that took his staff to the practice field. If reporters were asking who paid for city staff and city councillors to go to Chicago, it was only because Mr. Ford boasted that the trip wouldn’t cost a cent and failed to explain who would cover city costs. We found out only on Monday, days after the trip, that registration fees from business people on the mission are supposed to do the trick.

Instead of retreating into the bunker and writing off reporters as enemies, the mayor might try talking to them a little more. He could save himself a lot of trouble.

Follow on Twitter: @marcusbgee

 

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