Rob Ford, with all of his latest foibles, has now achieved worldwide infamy. In just a matter of weeks, the mayor of Toronto has revealed himself to be a crack user, drunk driver, and ultimately unfit for office. What’s missing in this list of labels the media has conjured? That the man is a liar.
The Ford case highlights two major issues with the nature of politics today: the media remains caught up in the man’s private life, while failing to account for the fact that he spent months working to cover up his actions.
On May 16 2013, Gawker editor John Cook reported that he had viewed a cellphone video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine. The Toronto Star shortly followed suit, claiming to be following the same tip, and to have seen the video. Gawker proceeded to raise $200,000 to purchase the video, only for the seller to disappear. Amidst the rising tide of allegations, Mayor Ford took it upon himself to repeatedly deny the existence of the tape, and claimed that he had never smoked crack.
The Toronto police announced on Oct. 31st that they were in possession of the tape; days later, after five months of denying his habits, Ford admitted publicly to having smoked crack cocaine, though he was careful to deny being addicted. Since then, further details from police reports have emerged, revealing allegations from Ford staffers that Ford was a drunk driver, engaged with prostitutes, and has drank on the job. The media has been more than happy to cover each accusation, and the hoopla of just what Mayor Ford has done has garnered international attention. The incident has become a wellspring of material for the late-night comics, featured most recently in the cold open of the Nov. 16 episode of Saturday Night Live.
The horse-race narrative of politics has generated a superficial discussion of Ford’s private life. Journalists and news anchors have become overly concerned with his weight, potential drug addiction, and poor life choices. While entering public life as a politician opens up scrutiny of the private life, is this standard truly applicable to a mayor? Who are we to judge? Do Ford’s choices in his private life affect his ability to enact decisions in the best interest of the City of Toronto? While Ford has a predilection towards drugs and profane words, it stands aside from the fact that he is a habitual liar to the public on matters pertaining to his private life. Moreover, the fact that the media continues to focus on his drug use, weight, and poor choice of words has left him in a position of power, while also generating negative international attention to a major Canadian city.
Ford is an elected official. His actions have diverted attention away from far more pressing issues. He has lied about a serious offense for over five months. He has also lied about other illicit activities. His efforts to dance around the sensitive issues in his private life may have him lying about major matters of public policy. Does it matter that he’s done drugs? That is for the justice system to decide, not the media. What matters is the fact that he’s unaccountable to his constituents. The Toronto City Council moved on Nov. 15 to strip Ford of all executive powers, essentially making him into a figurehead. He may as well be left in a clown suit to dance around for the world to see. Still, at the end of the day Ford is still the mayor, and so long as he is, he will continue to make a mockery of himself and our country. Unfortunately, our media outlets will be more than happy to keep pouncing on him.