A not-so-artful dodger sends his brother to do the talking

The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford waits in his car at the end of the funeral for former Toronto Sun founding editor Peter Worthington at Christ Church Deer Park on Yonge St., Toronto May 22, 2013. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

When the Fords are under attack, their practice is to dodge the hard questions and blame the media. So it was on Wednesday, with Rob Ford doing the dodging and Doug the blaming.

Six days into the crack-video affair, we still have not had a proper statement from the mayor about the most serious allegation he has faced in his incident-filled career. In the absence of such a statement, reporters have been trying to get him to make some comment – any comment – on the fly.

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CTV reporter Austin Delaney caught up with him at a gas station coffee counter. “Mr. Mayor, talk to us, please. These are serious allegations. People want to know if you have been involved in crack cocaine.”

Mr. Ford laughed it off. Was Mr. Delaney going to camp on his doorstep, he asked. “Make sure you pick up your sleeping bag outside, partner. Or do you want me to make your bed for you tonight?”

Mr. Delaney, undeterred, followed the mayor to his car. “When are you going to be ready to make a statement, sir?” he asked. He got no reply.

Why? A little while later, Doug Ford issued this explanation. “When the mayor faces serious accusations, by no means will we be pressured by the Toronto Star to answer their questions on their time frame.” He continued: “If the mayor stopped and held a press conference every time the media made up a story about him, we would never have accomplished what we have.”

After rhyming off the mayor’s accomplishments – his fiscal discipline, his “historic labour deals,” even his patronage of the arts – he said that “all of this, of course, is overshadowed by the constant stream of accusations coming forward against this mayor.” He accused the media of stalking his mother and his children and argued that “never, never” had a Canadian politician and his family been targeted this way.

Oh, and he had the nerve to play the ethnic card, too, saying that, by referring to Somali drug dealers, the crack-video story “wrongfully generalizes and tarnishes the reputation Toronto’s Somalian community.”

The media have no reason to follow the mayor around town, he said. “If the mayor wants to make a statement, his press secretary will notify the media.”

The trouble is that he has not. Despite pleas from city councillors and community leaders to clarify things by addressing the video story, the mayor has said nothing since last Friday, when he brushed it off as “ridiculous.”

“I don’t know how much more he can say,” the mayor’s brother says. He could begin by saying whether he has had anything to do with drug dealers or crack cocaine.

It is not just the Star that has been trying to get a comment. Every media outlet in the city has been on it. If the mayor finds reporters waiting outside his house, it is not because they take any pleasure in stakeouts or seek to invade his privacy. It is because he has left them no option.

Whatever Doug Ford may say, there is no media conspiracy to get the Fords. Reporters seeking answers are only doing their job. The whole city is wondering what the mayor has to say about the video affair. As long as he refuses to give his side of the story, reporters are bound to ask him about it at every opportunity. It will be a distraction at every event he attends.

It even impinged on the funeral of journalist Peter Worthington at a North Toronto church on Wednesday. Dodging reporters again, the mayor came in late and sat at the back. “Have some respect,” Mr. Ford snapped at a TV crew waiting to question him. Outside, a reporter for CP24 television said he spotted the mayor’s staffers handing out magnetic Rob Ford calling cards.