Earlier today, when confronted in a Tim Hortons by the CTV reporter Austin Delaney, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was kind enough to offer to tuck him in. “You want me to make your bed for you tonight?” he asked Delaney, who pursued his line of questioning, centred around allegations that the mayor has smoked crack, nonetheless.
This was the backdrop to Councillor Doug Ford’s strangely orchestrated press conference earlier today, which devolved into a tense standoff between Doug and a frustrated city hall press corps.
“If the mayor wants to make a statement, his press secretary will notify the media,” said Doug, the mayor’s older brother, speaking from a prepared statement. “There is no reason for you to be staking out his house and following him around town.” He said this amid the heckling of reporters puncturing his address with questions.
Looking nervous, and speaking in an uncharacteristically halting voice, Doug first announced that “I’m here today because you’ve been asking me for my comment–I’m here to give you my comments.
“I’m not speaking for the mayor. The mayor is my brother, I love him, and he’ll speak for himself.”
“When?” asked someone, presumably one of the members of a crush of reporters surrounding him, but Doug plowed on.
“He has already addressed these allegations three times on Friday, I don’t know how much more he can say.”
He added: “Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous, and I believe him. I will always support my brother as the mayor of this city, because I believe in his track record.”
Doug’s comments came as city councillors, media communications experts, and Torontonians in general marveled at how Rob Ford could withstand the growing pressure to address allegations contained in two press accounts, by Gawker and by the Toronto Star, that reporters at both outlets have viewed a video that appears to show Ford smoking from a glass crack pipe.
Ford has called these charges “ridiculous,” and his brother Doug, normally a ready speaker on his behalf, had given just one halfhearted statement on the matter before today.
Now, here was Doug in person: “My brother is an honest and hard-working man with integrity, a man who has dedicated his life to serving others.”
Then Doug issued a plea for distance. “Never, never has a Canadian politician or his family … been targeted by the media this way. They zealously, and I say zealously, stalk my mother, my children, the media hides in the bushes at our cottage, as they did this weekend, that my kids couldn’t even enjoy the weekend because they were in the bushes, taking videos of them, and harasses our family at home. They have shown that they have no regard, absolutely no regard for what they are doing to our family, who should have no part of all of this.
“I am asking all of you today, please stop. Please stop harassing my children, please stop harassing my mother. Please leave them out of this. I never, ever expected that these were the rules of engagement. That we would go through this abuse and my family would suffer.”
During an accounting of what Doug characterized as Rob Ford’s many accomplishments, Doug’s voice took on a crisper tone, and his confidence grew. Taking a page from Stephen Harper’s recent handling of his government’s Senate woes, Doug mentioned how he and his brother have reigned in out-of-control spending, eliminated the budget gap, reduced property tax, and made a number of other governance strides.
“This mayor is fighting for the little guy to keep taxes affordable and low,” says Doug.
Doug became the first from the Ford camp to address Gawker’s role in breaking the story, and referred to a crowdfunding scheme aimed at raising money to buy video footage Gawker claims shows the mayor smoking crack.
“To the folks at Gawker,” said Doug, “what you are doing is disgusting and morally wrong. Giving away prizes to try to raise money for drug dealers and extortionists is disgraceful.”
But as the presser wound down, Doug’s voice risked getting lost in the din of questions. He ducked aside of the podium set up at city hall, his speech ended, and was quickly engulfed in maelstrom of cameras and queries.