Much has already been made about the contents of a recently-broadcast collegial interview between Conrad Black and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, from new claims of a vast police conspiracy against the mayor to the latest assertion that Ford's closet is finally bare, that there is nothing left to learn about his troubled past.
Yes, the VisionTV exclusive was billed as the latest peek behind Ford's curtain and delivered merely another secure pulpit from which Ford was invited to spin and obfuscate his history of illegal drug use, the concerning details of a police investigation and his relationship with the media.
The most concerning moment of the interview came when Black all but begged Ford to start picking on individual journalists. What were the most offensive abrasions perpetrated against you, he asked.
Ford took that chance to smear a respected member of the city hall press gallery. Because he’s the mayor of Canada’s largest city and it’s totally acceptable for him to make defamatory allegations he knows to be false.
“I guess the worst one was Daniel Dale in my back yard taking pictures," Ford said. He went on to very heavily imply unsubstantiated allegations: "I have little kids. The guy is taking pictures of little kids. I don’t want to say that word, but you start thinking, ‘What is this guy all about?’ I just lost it.”
Ford was referring to an incident last year in which Dale, a Toronto Star reporter, visited a plot of public land Ford was trying to buy. It was a legitimate news story. It was unusual that a sitting mayor would try to purchase a plot of public land, justifying Dale's intent to write the story. Ford's attempt to buy the land was later rejected and ruled offside.
While Dale was visiting the plot of land, Ford got wind of his presence near the home and rushed out to confront him. In Ford's own words, Dale was lucky he was not assaulted.
Dale denies being anywhere near Ford’s fence or property and a police investigation ruled similarly. And no pictures were recovered from Dale's cellphone.
The facts don’t matter, however, because Ford accomplished his goal. He smeared a perceived enemy.
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Toronto Star managing editor Michael Cooke responded to the offside allegations made by Ford with this statement:
And Dale himself briefly addressed the response from his supporters:
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. Mr. Ford calling reporter Daniel Dale a paedophile tells you all you need to know about our mayor's brain. So sad for us all.
Thanks for your kind words, everyone! Never again will I go to sleep before a Conrad Black interview with Rob Ford.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) December 10, 2013
Here are a few other, less defamatory comments, made by Ford during the interview:
On drinking and drugs: “Have I made mistakes, you are absolutely right. It is humiliating and embarrassing when you make mistakes.”
On city hall spending: “If the guard is not there, then the inmates take over. I hate to use that analogy, but that is what happens.”
On limiting the mayor’s powers: “I think it is completely illegal. It is like the prime minister not being able to choose his cabinet.”
On Toronto's homeless: “I help out the homeless. I won’t give them money, because you don’t know what they’ll spend it on. But I’ll go buy them a meal. I’ll buy them whatever they will need.”
On the police investigation: “If I have done something illegal, I have told the police to arrest me… I support our front line offers 100 per cent. The chief I have an issue with. I would like to know how much he spent surveilling me. I definitely think this is political. I think they used (Alexander) Lisi as a prop to get to me.”
On media coverage: “It is ripping our family apart. When you have an eight- and six-year-old wanting to go to school at eight in the morning, crying and looking out of the window at a horde of media. They don’t know. They are little kids.… They think I am going to get hurt. They think their father is going to get killed.”
On future scandals: “There’s nothing else. Maybe I didn’t do my homework in Grade 3.”