Connecting dots: Rob Ford, 15 Windsor Rd., the photo and the alleged video

Charlie Gillis on tipping points and the trajectory of political scandal

The strong, silent type

Nathan Denette/CP

It was less a story than a trove of scenes, random and surreal. Toronto’s hulk of a mayor, smoking what appeared to be crack—or so said three journalists who reported watching video footage of Rob Ford huffing on a tell-tale glass pipe. There was a snapshot showing the mayor arm-in-arm with a young man who was later shot dead in a gang-style slaying. There were the stories from a dozen anonymous sources about Ford’s brother Doug, a Toronto city councillor, using the family basement in west Toronto as a hashish distribution centre in the 1980s.

But scenes are not proof, and by early last week, it became possible to imagine the mayor riding out this storm. His makeshift raft of avoidance and denial had held for nearly a month, and news that the city had eked out a $250-million surplus in 2012 provided welcome relief from the onslaught of disclosure. A poll taken in the wake of the revelations suggested support for Ford held firm around 34 per cent and, on Tuesday, Gawker, the American gossip website that first reported the alleged crack video, acknowledged that its $200,000 crowdfunding campaign to buy the footage might well go for naught. “After a long silence, the video’s owner reached out to the intermediary we have been dealing with,” acknowledged editor John Cook. “He told [the intermediary] the video is ‘gone.’ ”

Ford was ebullient. “We’re moving forward,” he grinned Wednesday during a flurry of public appearances—pouring coffee for Tim Hortons Camp Day; touring a bridge in need of repair. But as ever in Fordland, the calm was short-lived. That night, both Gawker and the Toronto Star published reports identifying the house in northwest Etobicoke where the photograph was taken, alleging it was also the location where the video was shot. The unkempt, yellow-brick bungalow is the family home of a high school chum of Ford’s, the Star reported, while neighbours provided the sort of insight not found in property records: it is known, neighbourhood gossip goes, as a drug house.

Is this the tipping point in a scandal that for all its sensation has yet to lay a glove on Toronto’s defiant mayor? Not yet, says Maureen Mancuso, one of the few academics in this country to make a study of political scandal. But it’s part of a familiar trajectory in which unproven allegations slowly coalesce into a narrative that, if unanswered, embeds itself in the public consciousness, says the University of Guelph political scientist. “Denial works only so long as the accusers have to draw long lines of assumption to connect the dots in their version of events,” says Mancuso. “If we start to find more evidence—more dots—and that evidence is consistent with the scandal narrative, then the lines of assumption get shorter and harder to reject.” Even without a proverbial “smoking gun,” she adds, public support for a politician can start to erode: “A smouldering fire still does damage as long as it smoulders, even if it never bursts into flame.”

Dispatches from the house at 15 Windsor Rd. have certainly added some dots. Quoting an unnamed source, Gawker reported that Ford is a long-time friend of 45-year-old resident Fabio Basso, and a frequent visitor to the home. Living with Basso in the house are his siblings Mario, 40, and Elena, 51, as well as his mother, Lina (the family’s father reportedly died in 2009). Both Fabio and Elena have criminal records—Fabio for minor theft offences, Elena for trafficking cocaine.

On the day the video was taken, according to Gawker, Ford had come to visit, and men were summoned from the nearby housing complex at 320 Dixon Rd. to provide the group with drugs. Among the three visitors were Anthony Smith, who some weeks later was shot dead; and Muhammad Khattak, who was injured in the same shooting. Both Smith and Khattak were pictured in the photo with the mayor, and their presence in this account is important because, according to unnamed sources, Ford had told members of his staff that he knew where the video was: on the 17th floor at 320 Dixon Rd. Gawker reported that one of the three men filmed Ford smoking crack; at some point, the site added, they asked the mayor to pose with them for a picture. Ford, it is alleged by the unnamed source, happily complied.

It’s a scenario, in short, that links previously disparate pieces: the home in the photo; the men in the photo; the purported video; and of course, Ford. Whether the killing of Smith was linked to the alleged video, as the mayor’s former staffers once feared, is not yet clear. But one day after reports of the tape became public, two large men stormed into the house at 15 Windsor demanding it, Gawker has reported, brushing aside Fabio Basso’s protests that he couldn’t find the young men who had filmed it. Four days later, on May 21, according to reports, one of the men arrived armed with a pipe and beat Basso and his girlfriend, forcing them to seek medical attention. Both police and ambulance officials have confirmed that an armed assault took place at the home, causing minor injuries to a man and a woman.

Maclean’s calls this week to the Basso home yielded no response, though Elena Basso told the Star: “Rob Ford’s the greatest mayor ever. You guys are scavengers.” It was not an enviable political endorsement, and just one of the problems hanging over the mayor. So far, two police investigations have opened up around the case, including one into the attack at 15 Windsor Rd., and another into the shooting of Smith and Khattak, who were gunned down outside a downtown Toronto nightclub on March 28. Two weeks ago, RCMP arrested a man in Fort McMurray, Alta., in connection with the shooting and charged him with first-degree murder. What details may emerge from these probes is anyone’s guess.

Small surprise, then, that the once-impregnable Ford brand has turned toxic to political powerbrokers of every stripe. Provincial government politicians conspicuously omitted the mayor this week from a ceremony marking the start of digging of a new tunnel on Eglinton Avenue. Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives distanced themselves from Doug Ford, who had made public his aspirations to run under their banner in the next Ontario election. On Monday, reports surfaced that the strategist who propelled Rob Ford to his stunning 2010 election win, Nick Kouvalis, had informed the mayor he won’t work for him again unless Ford checks himself into rehab.

The question is when, if ever, that doubt will catch on among the mayor’s anti-tax, pro-privatization voting base. Jim Ross, a conservative political consultant based in Ontario, believes the mayor’s support has held up partly because people knew they were getting a flawed man when they elected him. “When a politician is viewed as a regular person,” he says, “he is judged by the standards of a regular person instead of by the standard of perfection.” That sense of cultural difference has the added benefit of providing Ford with a useful defence—namely, his claim that he’s a victim of liberal elitists who wish to derail his agenda.

Yet the drip, drip of revelation continues, and there’s a growing sense that the mayor is unable to rise above his problems. This week, as unanswered questions swirled about his connection to the Bassos, Ford fended off accusations that he had booted the only woman left on his executive committee for daring to suggest he get help. Jaye Robinson, a centrist councillor, had done little more than suggest Ford take a break from his duties, returning when he could provide Torontonians with a proper answer to the allegations. “I think the mayor has personal issues that need to be addressed,” she said. “A temporary leave is not out of the question if the mayor is unwilling or unable to answer questions that have arisen.”

But it was unwelcome advice at a time when Ford is sticking to his message that he doesn’t use crack, that there is no video. The denials afford plenty of room for doubt, while leaving open the possibility of more revelations to come. Robinson claimed on Tuesday that no new disclosure could surprise her. Yet even she would have to admit that Ford has developed a propensity to defy such predictions. For his own health, and for his political well-being, it’s a habit he might want to kick.




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Connecting dots: Rob Ford, 15 Windsor Rd., the photo and the alleged video

  1. Wait, why hasn’t anyone gotten a hold of and interviewed this Muhammad Khattak guy!? He survived the shooting did he not? He was in the photo was he not?? Come on Macleans get to it!

    • These guys have a chronic history of not co-operating with police.
      Some 16 year old kid was shot in the gut yesterday, survived the shooting, but is refusing to identify his shooter.

      This is why i don’t even feel sorry for gang members. Their heads are filled with nothing but the stupids.

      • It’s part fear, part code of honour (which itself is often based on fear). This is not unique to street gangs. In any criminal organization, you don’t talk to the police, even if you’re the victim. I’m not suggesting you should pity this guy, I’m just not surprised he’s keeping his mouth shut.

    • It has been reported that Muhammad Khattak was amongst those who were arrested in the police raids in Toronto this morning.

      • Yeah!? Very interesting. I read after my initial post that his residence was among those searched, but I didn’t know if they had apprehended him. I guess we’ll find out what, if anything, he knows.

        • He was apprehended.

  2. Ford did something that’s pretty amazing. He destroyed the reputations of 2 newspapers in 1 week.

    • LOL these Newspapers will be fine and will be here long after this Nightmayor is over

    • Sure he did. Are you smoking what the mayor’s smoking?

    • Jimbo,

      EEEeeeeeek. What about CTV? What about the federal and Provincial Tories who are RUNNING in the direction opposite of these ford boys? Dude, it was over 2-3 weeks ago. Today it is still interesting but slightly stale. I mean, guilty is still guilty as dead is still dead.

      But you still need Jesus to show you the holes in his hands or you will never believe, anything.

  3. Media are so desperate for a shred of power even pictures showing different fixtures in the upper left corner are a “match” for them. Meanwhile the media are afraid to tackle obvious provincial corruption. Les journalist des juane!

    • Typical of the mayor’s supporters: deny, minimize, distract, displace.

      • Two different buildings is hardly a denial, but merely pointing out a fact.

        • Yes, it’s a vast media conspiracy involving multiple news organizations across the political spectrum in two countries. That is the simplest and most logical way to explain what’s going on.

          • Journalism is DAO.

          • And so, apparently, is literacy (or at least the ability to type and spell-check ‘DOA’).

          • Oh wait…the conspiracy is much bigger than that. It involves former members of Ford’s office staff who bailed on him (and may yet leak make up more stories), the Toronto Police who obviously have it in for him, most of the municipal councilors who no longer even listen to him, the limp-wristed, latté-sipping, elitist leftards who live down town, people who hate subways, and anybody who doesn’t read the Sun.

            I mean, the injustice of this league of forces arrayed against him is appalling.

          • Even the Sun has backed off supporting him.

  4. Typical of our mayor. Deny, deny, deny.

  5. Toronto. How sad and ugly you have become. The little big city that never could.

    • Don’t judge Toronto by the craptastic Mayor that the suburbs elected. Downtown’s doing just fine thanks.

    • Lived in TO for 10 years, some 20 years ago. Was always a bit too big for me, but was, and is still is, a great city.

      Rob Ford will fade away, hopefully only remembered as a dishonest politician who partied too excessively. If it is shown that he and/or his brother are linked to Fabio Basso’s beating, or Anthony Smith’s murder, then it will truly be an ugly stain on the city.

    • it could be worse, it could have been Ottawa’s Jim Watson, who spends money like a drunken sailor, i would trade anytime

  6. I was expecting a little more here (though very cool photo of that gigantic head). Is this the best the local media can do? There must be people who can supply further evidence.

    • If there was a shred of evidence, it would have come out in the last month. The whole “story” was designed so as to not require any proof or evidence, just to smear the mayor.

      • There’s “evidence”. it is safe to say there is no PROOF.

        Evidence + past history + unconvincing current behavior – proof = suspicion.

      • Just wait. The other shoe will drop…and the other, and the other, and the other.

        Or, to recruit another metaphor, the movie is at least a two-reeler. This is just the intermission.

        So, re-load on popcorn and wait for the lights to go down. It won’t be long.

  7. Police Chief news conference at noon. Big raid early this morning and they grabbed every cell phone in sight, plus a laptop. This could get interesting…

    • I am not sure but wouldn’t the guys with the pipe take any cell phones and laptops with them when they handed out the beatings? If they took the video, it would only be prudent to take ALL the other electronics just in case wouldn’t it?

  8. It various reporters have been able to dig up this much information about Rob Ford and his connections to drug us and his connections to drug dealers, then you would think the police should also be able to dig up similar sorts of evidence if they make the effort. The question is, are the police actively investigating these allegations, and if not, why not? Surely the information that has come forward is grounds enough for the police to launch a full investigation into the matter.

    • We’ll find out what the police have to say at noon.

  9. Looks like the Ford’s are worried there are copies of the video still out there.

  10. The Usual Trash ‘journalism’. Talk about Circulation…

  11. The thugs in Montreal are so much more sophisticated.
    But then criminal enterprise is old hat in Quebec.

  12. I find it hard not think poorly of the family Ford.

    • And just like the family Ford, it started out all shiny and new. Now it’s tarnished and looking a little dented. But the horn still works!

  13. I’m really surprised that no media are making any connection or doing any follow-up to the story from three years ago, when Rob Ford, as the Toronto Sun reports,

    “insists he only was trying to help someone in trouble when he offered to try to find some OxyContin on the street.”

    http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/sueann_levy/2010/06/16/14417601.html

    At one point, Dieter Doneit-Henderson presses Ford for help.

    “Can you find OyxContin for me, Rob?

    Ford answers, “”I’ll try buddy, I’ll try …”

    As Doneit-Henderson continues to press, Ford suggests he’ll go to his doctor and ask “people on the street to see what’s going on …”

    Naturally, reflexively, drug-fiend Fatso blamed the 52-minute tape recording as a sting operation hatched by the Toronto Star.

  14. Oh come on! Rob Ford will get re-elected or not by the will of the voters, not the media – I’ll bet John Honderich wishes he had thought twice before going on the Star’s witchhunt – they are certainly helping Ford’s re-election. Who cares what Ford does in his private life? Where were you guys when Councillors Ana Baleo and Paul Christie were convicted of drunk driving? Is that okay with Macleans magazine? Drunk drivers kill and maim children – and the media gave them a pass – I see nothing on McGuinty who ripped Ontario off for $580 million? Is that not a big enough story for Macleans? Duffy did $90,000 – but the Liberal Senator Harb? close to $300,000 – gee, you forgot to mention him. Could you be biased? NDP/Liberal lovers? Surely not!

    • I’m sure drivers high on crack kill and maim children too.

      • those two were convicted – Ford is being accused with no evidence – drivers get into cars – druggies rarely – check the accident stats in province

    • Drivers who read or talk on their cell phones while driving also have accidents, maim and kill people.

      • you compare drunk drivers who knowingly get into a car and start driving as similar to people who talk on cell phones? no wonder you use a phony name

    • Patricia, this comment section is about Ford; His face, name and story are mentioned here. Why would people come here and talk about Ana Baliaolo when they can go to the articles on her and comment (which people do as well). Why would they talk about Dalton McGunity and the gas plant when there are articles about that to comment on, which people do?

      Would it make sense to go to an article about Woof Stock, and start posting comment about Paul Rafferty? Or Conrad Black? No, it wouldn’t, because it’s not the subject matter discussed in the article.

      This doesn’t have to be about right or left or centre hashing it out. Frankly, the best citizens are those who are able to say to their elected constituents, whether they themselves voted for them or not, and give feedback over their governance. Why wouldn’t you?

      You are basically paying them and putting trust in them to do a job. If they don’t do it, they get feedback. Like the way my boss gives me feed back on how i did. If i went into a meeting with my boss, and they said i did fine overall, but poorly in this one area, what do you think would happen if i started spouting off about other coworkers?

      People need to learn how to take criticism for their failures and change, and take credit only when credit is do. This is what adults do, and i worry about my generation tremendously because the examples set in the media by leaders from left to right are never taking responsibility for anything anymore, personally.

    • the UNION GOONS will go at any length to destroy this guy! Since he said that he would stood up to them, he’s paying the price, he and his family. You never backlash at these goons, because they are rich and powerful. Anyways, most of the money people invest in these unions is spent abroad, and is placed in fiscal parardises anyways, rather than putting back in our own economy Thanks Suckers!

  15. Did someone paid more than $200k to get rid of the video?

    • The Deco Labels company better be printing overtime to cover “extra expenses” this fiscal quarter..

    • Someone may have paid 200k to get rid of a video that never existed. Money well spent.

    • Or have a couple of thugs go and get it?

  16. When the suspects rounded up in this campaign have lawyered up and start to plea bargain, one or more of them will sing like meadowlarks, in return for leniency and witness protection.

    I think Ford’s boat has way too many leaks to stay afloat on these unfriendly seas.

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