Councillor Doug Ford continued to defend his brother Mayor Rob Ford on Friday, and came out on the attack against the Toronto Star for a lawsuit reporter Daniel Dale has filed against the mayor.
"The Toronto Star is hurting, they want to sell newspapers, and it's a shame they're going down this avenue," he told reporters Friday.
"It's a shame – a shame – that they're using Daniel Dale as a pawn here."
Mayor Ford arrived at his office around noon on Friday, but did not answer questions about the lawsuit.
Mr. Dale, a city hall reporter at the Star, served the mayor with a libel notice Thursday evening, after comments the mayor made about him in a televised interview with Conrad Black on Monday.
During the interview that aired on Vision TV, Mr. Ford described a May, 2012, incident where he confronted Mr. Dale in a public space behind the mayor's house.
"He's taking photos of little kids," Mr. Ford told Mr. Black in the interview. "I don't want to say that word, but you start thinking 'What's this guy all about.' "
In an interview Friday, Mr. Dale said that he'd initially decided not to sue, but changed his mind Thursday after hearing the mayor repeat the comments in an radio interview. "I just thought, 'I can't sit here for potentially 10 months until the election as he makes this some sort of talking point,' " he said.
Mr. Dale called Councillor Ford's claim about him being used as a pawn "completely untrue." He said the Star made it clear from the beginning that the choice was his alone, and that, even after he told editor-in-chief Michael Cooke Wednesday that he wasn't going to sue, Mr. Cooke told him, "I support you 100 per cent. We're moving on."
Mr. Dale added that, since the mayor made his comments, the reporter has received e-mails, messages and tweets "calling me a pedophile, a pervert, a sicko. Any one of those e-mailers could potentially be someone I need to talk to for some future story. And they might now be wary of talking to me in a way they wouldn't have been before because of this." Even in his personal life, he said, "If I meet someone at a party or anybody new who comes into your life and looks you up [on the Internet], this will be one of the first things that they read about me."
While the Star is not part of the proceedings, the newspaper is covering Mr. Dale's legal expenses. "I think there's an obligation, there's certainly a moral obligation and probably a legal one, for us to do that [cover his expenses]," Mr. Cooke said.
Mr. Dale will continue to report on Mr. Ford, a decision Mr. Cooke acknowledged raises questions about a perceived conflict of interest. However, he argued that Mr. Dale has fairly covered Mr. Ford since the original incident occurred last year.
"His reporting in that past year or so has been unassailable and I have no reason to believe that that would change," he said. "So there was no reason for the Star to take Daniel off that beat. There's no reason for Daniel to suffer some kind of punitive measure because of the pedophile smear coming from Rob Ford."
On this point, Mr. Dale added that "it would be a terrible precedent if you were to essentially allow the mayor to dictate who covers him … if the mayor didn't like the Sun reporter, then theoretically they could go around saying the Sun reporter has murdered 50 babies and keep saying it until the reporter felt no choice but to take action, and he'd be out of here. We can't allow it."
Mr. Cooke also said he had "some concern" about issues of free speech, but said this case is unique. "This is a particularly egregious libel and calling a man a pedophile is the worst thing you could say about someone. And in this case, this mayor has proved himself to be a bully and in this case Daniel is standing up to the bully and I think it's about time."
On Tuesday, when urged by councillors to apologize, Mayor Ford told reporters he stood by his words.
Mr. Dale called the mayor's account of the May incident "categorically false."
"I was there to research a story about a mayor making a rare request to buy public land," he told The Globe on Tuesday. "His kids were nowhere in sight. I saw no children. More importantly, after I offered to let police go through the phone, they saw no pictures whatsoever from that night."
In a statement posted on its radio station's website on Friday, ZoomerMedia, which owns Vision TV, said it would not comment until officials seek legal advice.
"As there is now the threat of legal action, ZoomerMedia will not be making a statement until such time as we can consult with our attorneys to consider the allegations and determine next steps."
Mr. Black said Mr. Dale was on thin ice with the action.
"If the Star goes to court with this turkey, they'll be killed," he said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press late Thursday. "They raised the pedophilia question; Ford didn't."
Mr. Black declined to discuss the matter further or elaborate on previous comments that Mr. Dale might have a case because it was now a legal action.
The lawyer for Mr. Dale, Iris Fischer, said her client now has three months to serve a statement of claim.