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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford coaching the Don Bosco High School Eagles in Toronto on Sept. 11, 2012. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford coaching the Don Bosco High School Eagles in Toronto on Sept. 11, 2012. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

MARCUS GEE

Stop denying and show the proof, Mr. Mayor Add to ...

‘If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” – Legal adage

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The Ford brothers did not actually pound the table in their Newstalk 1010 radio studio on Sunday, but there were angry words and raised voices as they lashed out at their tormentors in the football affair. The way they put it, the whole controversy over the mayor’s use of city staff to help coach his football team is a creation of lazy reporters and “left-wing elitist socialists.”

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The media, said Rob Ford, just “sit there and take shots on us and ridicule you. Why don’t they just put their name on a ballot and we’ll go toe to toe with them in an election.”

His brother warmed to the theme: “They don’t do their due diligence,” said the Etobicoke councillor. “They sit on their ass, as I said before, rather than going and looking for the story.

“All these folks are connected. This is going to continue. They won’t stop. They don’t believe in democracy. Do you know why? You’ve got the lefties there, you’ve got the socialists, then you’ve got the media. They’re all fighting for space on the front page.”

That’s the Ford version. Now the facts.

The football controversy is hardly the creation of a pinko cabal. The Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, a right-wing advocacy group that usually supports the mayor, says that, “As this city’s financial coach, we believe Mayor Ford should set a positive example for the rest of the city hall team by dedicating taxpayer dollars strictly to city business.” The Toronto Sun, a right-wing tabloid that helped bring Mr. Ford to power, pasted a big headline on its front page: Ford Offside. Its editorial said that “Ford shouldn’t be using public resources – whether it’s taxpayer-funded staff or cellphones or vehicles” – to support his football team.

As for “lazy” reporters, The Globe’s reporting on the story showed that two of the mayor’s “special assistants” were listed on the Facebook page of one of Mr. Ford’s teams, along with their city-issued cellphone numbers. It found that a third assistant hired by the mayor is a former University of Toronto quarterback. He was photographed at a team practice last week.

The Globe tried repeatedly to contact the mayor’s office for comment before running the story. There was no answer. Nothing Mr. Ford or his office have said since has contradicted that original report. In a classic non-denial denial the day after, his office praised the mayor for helping the football team and the assistants for their hard work, but did not deny that the assistants had worked for the team on city time (though Doug Ford has said, without evidence, that they were volunteering).

Instead of challenging the facts, the mayor and his brother are going after the messenger. The Globe, said Doug Ford, “is trying to out-Star the Star.” He did not mean it as a compliment. He accused the media of stalking the mayor, showing up at one of his football practices like “wolves sitting there with saliva on their mouth.” What he did not say was that reporters followed the mayor to the football field only because he brushed past them at City Hall, refusing to comment on the football affair.

If the Fords can show that the mayor was not using city staff or resources for his football team, fine, let’s see the proof. If not, they should be more careful about what they say.

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