Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s colleagues have criticized his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in Los Angeles, questioning the claim that he is there to promote Toronto’s film industry and accusing the mayor of making a “mockery” of the city.
However, Mr. Kimmel only poked gentle fun at the mayor in his opening monologue on Monday night.
“I feel like I have a LOT to talk to with Mayor Ford ... I don’t think I’ve had this many questions since the series finale of Lost,” he said.
“Oh, and by the way: it’s almost 60 degrees colder in Toronto than it is here today.”
Mr. Ford wore a monochrome black suit and black shirt – with bright Rudolph-red tie, prompting Mr. Kimmel’s first question: “Why are you dressed like a magician?”
Then he asked: “Why are you here? What good can come from this?”
Mr. Kimmel noted during the show that Mr. Ford last week dared Toronto’s police chief to arrest him. “It’s all politics … they followed me for five months, and came up with nothing,” Mr. Ford replied.
After showing videos of Mr. Ford tossing candy canes to kids and dancing in council chambers, Mr. Kimmel closed the interview by saying: “If you are an alcoholic … [Mr. Ford chuckles] … If you’re doing crack in your 40s and you can’t remember … [That’s] something to think about. It’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
Accompanied by his two brothers and several staffers, Mr. Ford arrived in L.A. on the weekend for a Monday appearance on Mr. Kimmel’s show, telling reporters he is promoting Toronto’s tourism and film industries.
But many of the mayor’s colleagues, including former allies on council, slammed the trip, accusing him of exploiting his notoriety – gained through a drug scandal that has tainted the past year of his mayoralty – and saying that they are tired of the city being the butt of jokes.
Reached on his cellphone in L.A. on Monday, Councillor Doug Ford, who is running his brother’s mayoral re-election campaign, told The Globe and Mail he and his brother are “promoting Toronto like no one’s promoted Toronto before.”
He said the mayor has been talking with “people from ABC and Walt Disney [the studio that broadcasts the Jimmy Kimmel show], and endless people last night at the Oscar parties” about Toronto’s film industry. The group is expected to return to Toronto on Tuesday.
Councillor Ford added that the trip is being paid for out of his and his brother’s own pockets. “We paid for our trip. We paid for the hotel. We paid for our flights,” he said. The day before, Councillor Ford told several media outlets that at least part of the trip was being financed by the Jimmy Kimmel show, but he said on Monday this was a misunderstanding.
“I was going to be honest, because they’re going to try to nail us on every little aspect,” he said. “Jimmy Kimmel paid for one dinner. One dinner. We paid for everything else.” Council’s code of conduct prohibits councillors and mayors from accepting gifts worth more than $500 except in a few very specific circumstances.
But other councillors reacted with skepticism on Monday, worrying the appearance would be yet another embarrassment for the city.
“I think Torontonians are feeling a bit mocked,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson, who was removed from the mayor’s executive committee in June after she questioned his behaviour. “We feel like they’re mocking the mayor, and then the reflection in turn is they’re mocking the City of Toronto. I don’t think people feel great about it.” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is considering running for mayor, dismissed the notion that Mr. Ford is promoting Toronto. “That’s not why he was asked onto the show,” he said. “It was to focus in and highlight many of the mayor’s problems, faults.”
Others questioned the Ford brothers’ claim that the mayor is representing the film industry.
“If he was truly on a trip to bring films to the City of Toronto, there are staff and professionals that would accompany him to make him successful,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher, who is on the city’s film board. “But just stumbling around L.A. with your family and your staff is not a plan to bring films to Toronto.”
The Globe reported on Monday that Mr. Ford’s trip came as a surprise to film commissioner Randy McLean, who was not consulted. And George McNeillie, a spokesperson for the Ontario Media Development Corporation – which has an office in L.A. promoting Toronto and the province as filming destinations – said they were not contacted by the mayor’s office either.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, a sometimes-ally of Rob Ford, said “the mayor needs to give his head a shake.” Just two months ago, Mr. Mammoliti was exploring ideas to reinstate the powers stripped from Mr. Ford late last year. But he no longer thinks that – or the Jimmy Kimmel appearance – is a good idea.
“Once the host is through with him, he’ll probably wish he’d never gone down,” he said. The details of Mr. Ford’s full itinerary have remained under wraps – with his Twitter feed offering only a few hints, including a visit to the L.A. City Hall on Monday. A report on TMZ said the mayor partied in a $2,500-poolside cabana on Sunday night. Amin Massoudi, the mayor’s spokesperson, said the mayor “ did not purchase a cabana, nor was one purchased for him.”
With a report from Elizabeth Church
Shinan Govani is a freelance writer