Conrad Black defends Rob Ford interview, but would ‘resent’ mayor if he lied

Conrad Black speaks in Toronto on June 22, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris YoungMuch has been made about a controversial interview between Conrad Black and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. From the mayor's side of it, anyway.

It was the mayor who alluded to a member of the Toronto city hall press corps as a pedophile. It is the mayor who is now being called a vile liar and threatened with a possible lawsuit. But on Wednesday night, someone held Black's feet to the fire over his role in the controversy.

The former media baron, who spent time in U.S. prison on fraud and obstruction of justice charges, is now part of The Zoomer, a debate show that airs on Vision TV. For the show, he conducts conversations with people in the news, most recently Ford.

During the interview, Ford again accused Toronto police of being part of a conspiracy against him, and discussed a run-in with Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale last year, during which Dale was investigating a piece of public land adjacent to Ford’s home, that the mayor had made an unusual request to purchase.

During the conversation with Black, Ford claimed Dale was standing on bricks near his fence and taking pictures of his children in the back yard. Dale denies going anywhere near the fence and says took only one photo, of the parkland. A police investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Dale.

"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?’” Ford told Black.


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On Wednesday, Black appeared on CBC Radio's As it Happens, at which time he told host Carol Off that it was not his responsibility to challenge claims and allegations made by Ford, including the now-notorious accusation made against Dale.

Black described the interview as a non-combative conversation and said it was not his duty to stop mayor from saying anything defamatory.

"I didn’t do the editing. I wasn’t going to leap from my chair and throttle the mayor," Black told Off. "I was his guest in his office and he can say what he wants. And if he says slanderous things he’ll have to face the consequences of that and I don’t doubt the Star would not be hesitant to sue him if it really is a slander. But I think it’s a bit much to expect me to know that. I mean I haven’t made a study of every aspect of the mayor’s controversy."

Black further said he didn't take Ford's comment to insinuate pedophilia – perhaps only that the reporter was a Peeping Tom.

[ Related: Rob Ford won't see Conrad Black endorse his re-election bid ]

And when Off presented Black with the full account of what happened the night Ford clashed with Dale, including the result of the police investigation, Black conceded that it appeared Ford may have lied during the interview.

"I certainly take note of your view there is another version of events at drastic variance with his," he said. "As I said, if the mayor deliberately misled the viewers and did not tell me the truth, lied in fact, I would resent that very much and I’ll comment on it. But I had no reason to believe that’s the case."

Near the end of the interview, Black sought to clarify the much-held belief that he would support Ford in his re-election bid. He said that he only believes Ford should be allowed to finish his current mandate without improper interference.

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