Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford made the media rounds over the weekend, taping interviews with Fox News, CNN and Sun News in an attempt to control their message after a scandal-plagued month capped off with the mayor's admission of crack cocaine use, drinking and driving and lewd language during a press conference.
In an interview set to air Monday night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Mayor Ford tells reporter Bill Weir that part of the reason he decided to finally admit to smoking crack cocaine after months of denials was to avoid the possibility of blackmail.
"Why? It's just I'm not gonna -- I'm not gonna run around and be phony and, you know, lie," Mr. Ford said, according to CNN. "And I'm not gonna have someone try and blackmail me and say they have videos of this."
When asked by Mr. Weir why people might still vote for Rob, his brother said that the mayor is misunderstood. "Everyone keeps saying Rob's a conservative," Councillor Ford tells CNN. "He's a huge, massive social liberal. He loves Obama. The headlines of the papers when he won? 'The White Obama.'"
That comment appears to be a reference to a 2010 column in the National Post, in which Mayor Ford is described as "the Barack Obama of Toronto" – not because of his social policies, but because both were elected on the basis of personality, and after years of voter anger.
According to CNN, both Mayor Ford and Councillor Ford took the interview as an opportunity to speak derisively about Canadian media. At one point, Mayor Ford went on an "angry tear" against the Toronto Star, according to Mr. Weir. After that, when asked by Mr. Weir about how he's explained the months of scandal to his children, Mayor Ford describes himself as "the best father around," according to CNN.
"I'm straight-forward with my kids, I take my kids out and I bring my daughter to dance lessons. I'm teaching my son how to ski, and my wife supports them and my wife has some issues. What, you just dismiss them? You just walk away? I don't walk away from anyone, Bill, in life."
Mid-interview, according to CNN, an Etobicoke resident wanders over and says to Councillor Ford "I remember when you used to sell hash to all my friends." Councillor Ford responds by denying to CNN that there's truth to an 18-month Globe and Mail investigation that detailed his involvement in the drug business in the 1980s.
"Thirty one years ago. I smoked marijuana. I didn't deal marijuana," he told CNN. "If you want to go calling, you know, going to your buddy and saying, 'Here is a joint for $10 bucks,' if that's what you want to call (dealing), so be it."
Mayor Ford continued to deny on CNN that he'd ever lied about his use of crack cocaine, saying again that reporters were just asking him the wrong questions.
"They said 'Do you smoke crack and are you a crack addict?,'" Mayor Ford said. "Have I? Yes, I have. I didn't lie. I don't smoke crack. I haven't smoked crack in over a year." In the six months since the crack video allegations first surfaced, Mayor Ford has been repeatedly asked by reporters whether he has ever used drugs, and his response has been either to ignore the question, or to issue a blanket denial. In November, when AM640 host John Oakley asked Mayor Ford 'have you used crack?', Mr. Ford responded by saying "Johnny, listen, I'm not a drug addict, I'm not an alcoholic … I can assure you, Johnny, I do not use drugs."
CNN wasn't the only American media outlet the Ford brothers spoke with over the weekend.
Mayor Ford appeared on Fox News Sunday afternoon, saying that "yes one day I do want to run for Prime Minister" and reiterating that he has no plans on stepping down. "I was elected to do a job," he said. "I've never missed one day of Council, I've never been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at a council meeting or any time in office. And yes have I made mistakes in my personal life on my own time? Absolutely. But that's all they've got."
According to police documents released last week, several former staffers in the mayor's office told police they had concerns about Mr. Ford's drinking and drug use. At least two former staffers told police they were frequently asked to purchase alcohol for the mayor, and that they saw Mr. Ford intoxicated at City Hall and official city events. Mayor Ford's former chief of staff Mark Towhey told police he believed the mayor "consumed alcohol while at City Hall."
At one point in the CNN interview, Mayor Ford tells Mr. Weir he hasn't smoked crack cocaine in over a year. Yet, in the Fox News interview he said "I've admitted to using illegal drugs in the last year." It's not clear what that illegal drug might have been.
Mr. Ford also provided some details to Fox News' John Roberts on the "professional" help he announced last week that he is seeking. "No no no obviously the professional doctors that I'm working with you know we have a team of professionals that are working with me on some health issues and I'm gonna leave it at that. It's really no one's business what I do in my personal life, what I do in a gym or the professionals I talk to so you know what? I can assure you, I can assure you John if you don't see a difference in the next four five months then I have to eat my words."
Monday night will also see the debut of Mayor Ford and Councillor Ford's new Sun News Network show, called Ford Nation. "I'll do a drug test and an alcohol test right now," Mayor Ford says in a preview of the show posted on the Sun News website Monday. "I put a motion forward that every councillor do it too. You know what? They jumped up, they don't want anything to do with it. And the last council meeting, everyone said 'we're going out drinking after," he continues.
"I don't want to do this. I'm not a rat, Joe," he tells Sun News' Joe Warmington, who moderates the show. "I know people party on the side. I know lawyers, doctors, everybody has a good time." When asked by Mr. Warmington to explain who he's referring to, the mayor says "I'm not going to name names."
In an interview with AM640 Monday morning, Mayor Ford reflected on the intense media interest surrounding him. "This is completely getting right out of control," he said. "It was ridiculous, I was talking to Fox News and CNN, they've never seen something in all their years of history. I'm talking you can go back to the frigging Kennedy days and they've never seen something so bad like this."
With a report from Jill Mahoney