Six days after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was accused of being captured on video smoking from a crack pipe, his brother executed what one public relations expert called "one of the worst” attempts at damage control he has seen in the past forty years.
Councillor Doug Ford stepped up to the plate in what was to be the first comment of any substance from the Ford family since Gawker and the Toronto Star dropped the bombshell allegations last week.
Instead of offering anything of substance on the issue, Doug Ford whispered a soft denial before attempting to paint his brother as a victim, accusing Toronto media of being pawns of a conspiratorial puppet master and accusing Gawker of extortion over its attempt to purchase a tape purporting to show the incident.
"I'm not speaking for the mayor. The mayor is my brother. I love him and he will speak for himself," Ford began. "Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous, and I believe him," he later added.
Shortly after Doug Ford's statement, the Toronto Catholic District School Board announced its decision to drop Rob Ford as the volunteer coach of the Don Bosco Eagles, a role that he often placed above his duties at City Hall. The Toronto Star reports that the decision comes after a review into comments he made that painted his students as "gang members" from broken homes.
Doug Ford, in the meantime, sprinkled into his statement a list of "political wins" purportedly accomplished by Ford and carefully alleged the entire issue was a conspiracy created by the Toronto Star.
This was the moment, and how, the Ford brothers had carefully chosen to address the allegations that Mayor Rob Ford was seen in video footage smoking from a crack pipe.
While his brother spoke, Ford was out somewhere pointedly ignoring demands to address the issue. He laughed at CTV Toronto reporter Austin Delaney (who doesn't work for the Toronto Star, by the way) as he asked about the allegations at a Tim Hortons restaurant. He later accused reporters of being disrespectful about asking questions outside a funeral of Toronto Sun founder Peter Worthington.
(The National Post reports that Ford's staff members were criticized for handing out Ford campaign magnets at the funeral, so let's talk about respect.)
The Fords seem to believe that if they ignore the allegations long enough, they will go away. Or perhaps the video will disappear, or perhaps the public will grow weary and move on, as it has with Ford controversies time and time again.
[ More Brew: Jon Stewart takes crack at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ]
Doug Ford did not take questions after his bizarre statement. Prominent public relations expert Robin Sears, who has represented such high-profile clients as former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant, appeared dumbfounded during an appearance on CP24 immediately afterward.
“That is among the worst damage control limitation statements I have seen in 40 years of watching this kind of work,” Sears told host Stephen LeDrew. “That risks taking it from a sad and embarrassing event to tragedy. Because what he has done now is said to the Toronto Star, ‘up your game.’ You don’t throw a hand grenade to a media organization like the Toronto Star and not expect them to throw it back.
“You don’t attack the media for attacking your family and not expect them to defend themselves in the interest of accountability. He has simply amped the crisis one level higher and made it worse for him and his brother. It is a very sad day.”
Here are some other odd comments pulled from Doug Ford's statement:
- "(Rob Ford) has already addressed these allegations three times on Friday. I don't know how much more he can say."
- "Toronto is a vibrant city where people want to live, work and play."
- "Never has a Canadian politician or his family been targeted by the media in this way. They zealously stalk my mother, my children... and harasses our family at home."
- "To the folks at Gawker: What you are doing is disgusting and horribly wrong. Giving away prizes to try to raise money for drug dealers and extortionists is disgraceful."
- "If they mayor stopped and held a press conference every time the media made up a story about him, we would never have accomplished what we have."
- "If the mayor wants to make a statement, his press secretary will notify the media. There is no reason to be staking out his house and following him around town."
- "This story wrongfully generalizes and tarnishes the reputation of Toronto's Somali community."
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