Seldom have attempts to change the channel been so transparent. At 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, with his mayoralty under fire and questions about an alleged drug video still swirling, Mayor Rob Ford emerged from his office to make an announcement about public housing.
"When I was elected," he began, "I promised to bring true accountability to city hall and that is exactly what we've done." How? Why, by cleaning up the Toronto Community Housing, of course.
He went on to talk about a 2011 spending scandal that led him to sack the leadership of the public-housing organization. "I moved quickly and decisively to clean up the disgraceful mess," he said. Yes, he did -- more than two years ago.
Reporters waited in vain to hear what the mayor had summoned them to announce. He introduced the "new" chief executive of TCHC, Gene Jones, who took his post nearly a year ago. Mr. Jones had nothing to say. There was not a glimmer of news here -- only boasting.
"Folks I am so proud -- I am so proud -- to stand before you today you and tell you that we have turned the corner at Toronto Community Housing." And with that, he turned to go.
It is all part of concerted effort by Mr. Ford and his brother Doug to move on from the video affair and regain their momentum as an election year approaches. Mr. Ford, normally shy of the press corps, appeared before the media almost every day this week to say make some pronouncement, while swatting away every question about the story that has transfixed the country.
"Anything else. Anything else," he said the other day, over and over, when reporters tried to get him to respond all the reports -- mounting by the day -- about the video affair and the turmoil it has unleashed in his administration.
Didn't he think the affair was overshadowing the work of the city. Not all, he fired back. "Everything's going fine."
His mayoral Twitter feed has been busy spitting out claims of money saved and efficiencies found. "I was elected to keep taxes low and reduce the size and cost of government," one tweet said, "and that's exactly what I'm doing."
Starting in his own office, it seems. By the end of the week, six staffers had left him since the beginning of the video affair, among them his press secretary and chief of staff. If any more jump ship, the quartet will have start playing Nearer My God to Thee.
No big deal, said the mayor. He wouldn't want to stop anyone from seizing other opportunities. Besides, the work in his office goes on. He told the press he had hired three new "movers and shakers" to replaced departed staffers and, darn it, they were hard at work already.