Daniel Dale’s reluctant decision to sue Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Star
reporter Daniel Dale reluctantly launched legal action against Mayor Rob Ford over comments he says paint him as a sexual deviant amid concerns that the quest to clear his name would be portrayed as a political attack.

Dale served Ford with a libel notice on Thursday after the mayor made claims in an interview with Conrad Black that alluded to him as a pedophile. Ford later said he stood behind "every word" and repeated the claims again on a Washington sports radio program on Thursday.

Vision TV and ZoomerMedia, the television channel and production company that first aired Ford's comments, were also served with notice and asked to apologize immediately.

“The false and defamatory statements have caused and are continuing to cause serious harm to Mr. Dale’s professional and personal reputation. Mr. Dale reserves all of his rights, including to seek damages from Mayor Ford and ZoomerMedia,” reads the libel notice.

“ZoomerMedia and Rob Ford should immediately retract the false and defamatory statements in their entirety, and apologize to Mr. Dale – publicly, abjectly, unreservedly and completely – if they wish to even begin to undo the harm caused by the broadcast of Mr. Ford’s outrageous statements.”

In an interview that aired on The Zoomer television show on Monday, Ford said discussed an incident from last year in which he confronted Dale while he was reporting on a plot of public land behind Ford's home. Ford had made an unusual request to purchase the public land and Dale says he was on site to research his story.

[ Related: Toronto reporter Daniel Dale launches lawsuit against Rob Ford ]

Ford told Black:

"Daniel Dale in my backyard taking pictures. I have little kids. When a guy’s taking pictures of little kids, I don’t want to say the word, but you start thinking, you know, what’s this guy all about?"

Ford further claimed Dale was on his property, standing on cinder blocks peering over his fence and taking pictures into his back yard. The interview was re-broadcast in full hours after it first aired.

Dale has denied all of those claims and a police investigation found no instance of wrongdoing. Police also found that no photos had been taken on Dale's phone.

Yet that hasn't stopped Ford from painting Dale as a pedophile and repeating his comments. Indeed, Ford’s shifting claims have become gospel to supporters over the years. Earlier, Dale wrote that he had been attacked online and in emails by those who believe Ford’s account.

Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale is demanding that Mayor Rob Ford retract his comments in an interview that aired …

Immediately after the libel suit was served, talk radio hosts and callers were suggesting it was a publicity ploy by Dale, that it was an attempt by the Star to extend the news cycle and heap more bad press on the mayor.

Ford's brother, Coun. Doug Ford, said, "Rob shouldn’t be defending himself, Daniel Dale should be defending himself… As far as I’m concerned they have no grounds to sue whatsoever."

[ More Brew: Toronto Coun. Doug Ford denies buying votes with $20 bills ]

In Dale's own words, he did not want to launch a lawsuit against Ford, preferring to put the matter to rest, but Ford's continued retelling of his claims forced him to act.

"I didn’t want to complicate my happy life. I’m a non-confrontational guy, and I just wanted to write articles and go home," Dale said in a column posted on Thursday. "I didn’t want to be goaded into a legal battle that could last a long time. The mayor very much deserved to be sued, I knew, but I thought I could do more good for the city by challenging him at city hall on policy than challenging him about me in a courtroom.

"Ford’s persistence changed my mind."

Dale says it was his decision to sue and that the lawsuit is his alone, although his employer will cover the expenses. Ford has made the media’s intense coverage of him, including the crack cocaine scandal, part of a narrative to paint himself a victim. Sadly, all that hard work will come into play here. Some Ford supporters will refuse to question Ford’s account and will continue to attack Dale.

His mission to clear his reputation will unfortunately drag him through the wringer. It is highly doubtful Ford will simply apologize. He has three days to do it. After that, Dale’s lawsuit can begin.

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