TORONTO – Rob Ford is being held to a higher standard than any other Canadian politician, the Toronto mayor’s outgoing deputy said Monday after videos of Ford at a street festival raised eyebrows over the weekend.
Doug Holyday said the short cellphone videos that were posted online were “inconclusive” and he didn’t think the mayor looked drunk, as many have suggested on social media.
“This mayor has gone through such scrutiny that everything he does is scrutinized in a way that no other politician has ever had before that I know of,” said Holyday, who is set to leave city hall for the provincial legislature after winning a byelection in west Toronto earlier this month.
Ford looked “like he looks most times,” though perhaps a little sleep-deprived, and was just “the mayor being the mayor,” Holyday said.
“Even if he did have a couple of drinks, as long as he wasn’t out of line, as long as he wasn’t driving his vehicle while he was drinking or anything like that, you know, he’s human like the rest of us,” he said.
Ford told his weekly Sunday afternoon radio show on NewsTalk 1010 that he had a couple of beers Friday night but insisted the public reaction has been overblown.
Social media experts argue the notoriety surrounding the controversial mayor has everyone vying to capture his every move on video.
Greg Elmer of Toronto’s Ryerson University said people have turned into “social media paparazzi” due to unresolved questions of an alleged video appearing to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Ford has denied he uses crack and said he can’t comment on a video that does not exist.
Journalists from both the U.S. gossip website Gawker and the Toronto Star say they were shown the video and the two outlets ran stories earlier this year.
Gawker later raised some $200,000 in online donations in an effort to purchase the alleged video, but ended up giving the money to four Ontario charities when no footage surfaced.
The campaign has nonetheless inspired a new television show — called “The Crowd Funder Show” — set to air next month in parts of Ontario and western New York, with a broader rollout expected to follow. The production company, Merton Park, said in a statement it was spurred by the so-called “Ford effect.”
That so much of the Ford controversy has played out on websites, Twitter and other social media only encourages would-be citizen journalists to use those same tools, said Sidneyeve Matrix, a social media expert at Queen’s University in Kingston.
The possibility of a payoff for a truly outrageous image could also provide an incentive, she said.
“When we’ve got all the social media swirling around this story having to do with the fundraising online, etc., then people are already halfway there to grabbing images, thinking that maybe they’re going to hit the big time and be featured on mainstream news,” Matrix said.
“It is that TMZ mindset and we may be most interested in looking at images of celebrities and other public figures when they’re at their worst,” she added, a reference to the celebrity news website whose aggressive reporting methods have often come under fire.
The latest scandal has critics once again urging the mayor to seek help for what they say appears to be a substance abuse problem.
“If he wants to be the mayor of this great city, I think he needs to take a leave of absence and get help. It’s in the best interests for the mayor and it’s in the best interests for Toronto,” city Coun. Jaye Robinson said in a radio interview Monday.
There have been media reports in the past of Ford seeming intoxicated in public.
In May, the Toronto Star reported allegations that Ford showed up drunk at an official function. Ford has dismissed the report as nothing but “lies.” Both his brother and Holyday have said they’ve never seen the mayor drink at any event.
In 2010, Ford recounted an incident from the 90s where he was charged with driving under the influence and marijuana possession in Florida. Ford at first denied the allegations, but later pleaded no-contest to the impaired driving charge and the drug charge was dropped.
In 2006, before Ford was mayor, he admitted he had too much to drink and verbally abused a couple at a Toronto Maple Leafs game after initially denying the incident.