TORONTO – A defiant Mayor Rob Ford refused Tuesday to apologize or explain televised comments in which he appeared to accuse a reporter of being a pedophile.
Asked if he would say sorry to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale or clarify the comments he made during a Vision TV interview with former media baron and convicted felon Conrad Black, Ford was emphatic.
“I stand by my words, what I said with Conrad Black,” Ford said at a news conference, his voice rising. “I stand by every word I said.”
Black had asked Ford in the Monday night interview about media intrusion on his family’s privacy, and Ford singled out Dale for an incident that happened in May 2012.
Dale has said he was writing a story about a plot of public land adjacent to Ford’s house that the mayor was looking to buy, so he had gone to take a look at it when the mayor emerged from his home to confront him.
“Daniel Dale is in my backyard taking pictures. I have little kids. He’s taking pictures of little kids,” Ford said in the interview, taped Friday.
“I don’t want to say that word but you start thinking what this guy is all about.”
During Tuesday’s news conference reporters asked Ford to specify “the word.”
“If you watch the interview you’ll know what I said,” Ford said angrily. “If you watched Conrad Black’s interview, actually there was two … I hope you saw both of them, and I stand by every word I said with Mr. Black in my interview.”
Earlier Tuesday, Dale denounced Ford’s suggestion as “categorically false.”
“It’s amazing. I don’t know what to say about it,” Dale said in an interview.
“In the calmest terms possible, it is unpleasant when the mayor of the biggest city in Canada essentially accuses you, or suggests, you are a pedophile.”
Dale, who seemed bemused by Ford’s comments, said at no time did he ever take any photographs of the mayor’s family, house or even his property — and a police investigation bore that out.
He said the Star’s lawyers were pondering next steps.
Neither Black nor Vision TV responded to interview requests Tuesday.
However, Vision’s code of ethics warns against misrepresenting or inciting hatred against any individual. It also promises to correct any “significant unfairness.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who has assumed most of the mayor’s powers, denounced Ford’s view.
“It’s dead wrong,” Kelly said.
“It’s almost beyond comment. It goes beyond the pale and I think there should be an apology for that.”
Toronto Star lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
However, in a statement in response to Ford’s remarks, the paper’s editor in chief Michael Cooke slammed Ford.
“Just when you think Mayor Ford has said the most stupid thing, such as letting the whole world know about his sex life at home, he tops himself with another outrage,” Cooke said.
Among other things, Ford has garnered national and international attention for his admission to smoking crack cocaine while in office, buying illegal drugs and making an obscene comment about a female aide on national television.
He has frequently denounced the Star, which in May carried the story of a video in which Ford appears to smoke crack cocaine, calling its reporters “pathological liars.”
Kelly suggested it was time for journalists to give Ford a wider berth.
“If the media didn’t follow the mayor as closely as it has, I think it would take the oxygen out of the room,” Kelly said.
Ivor Shapiro, chairman of Ryerson’s School of Journalism, said Ford does at times get too much media scrutiny, and journalists can lose their sense of proportion.
“I sympathize with people who think the mayor gets more attention than he deserves and that news media are somewhat obsessed with his every move and his every foible,” Shapiro said.
“(But) he is the head of a very large government and to hold the heads of government accountable for their behaviour is part of what of media do.”
At the same time, Shapiro said, Ford does give journalists a “lot of reasons” to be interested in his behaviour.