Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
That is a saying that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford might benefit from remembering as he spirals into a new round of allegations, accusations and controversies.
The contentious leader of Canada’s largest city has been beat up in court recently, but survived several attempts to legally end his rule as mayor and sat, seemingly, with clear skies ahead.
That was until this week when the wheels fell off again, this time it seems with no one but himself to blame. Or perhaps a woman he alleges is making up accusations against him.
Magazine publisher and former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson claims she was groped by Ford at a party Thursday night, adding that the mayor made comments suggesting he wanted to have an affair with her.
Ford and Thomson were both in attendance at an annual bash thrown by the Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee. Thomson, who stepped out of the 2010 mayor’s campaign and backed Ford rival George Smitherman and later unsuccessfully ran provincially, said the two stopped for a friendly chat before Ford crossed the line.
Thought it was a friendly hello to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the CJPAC Action Party tonight until he suggested I should have been in Florida with him last week because his wife wasn't there. Seriously wanted to punch him in the face. Happy International Women's Day!
“I've never seen him so out of it. I know I shouldn't be pissed but after spending 10 months on the campaign trail together you expect a little bit of respect at the very least for my husband,” she later wrote.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Ford disputed the allegations. He wrote, "Early this morning, false allegations were made regarding a number of disgusting actions. I am shocked, dismayed and surprised. I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false."
He went on to say that he was disappointed Thomson would "cry wolf" on International Women's Day.
Thomson has also fought back, claiming she came forward because she was sexually assaulted by the mayor and wants an apology. She has denied accusations that she was lying, or trying to catch Ford in a trap.
The messy and shameful "she said, he said" is the latest in a series of embarrassing gaffes the mayor has found himself in over the course of his political career.
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Candidly, there are three general trends that have haunted Ford over the past three years. First, there is a belief (often underscored by his own words and actions) that he represents suburban Toronto while turning his nose up at the downtown core.
Second, the subject of football has been a total blind spot for Ford. He has been accused of abusing his political clout to benefit his high school football team, shirking duties in order to coach. He has dragged a group of high school athletes into the political arena and used them as a shield whenever necessary.
Third, and this is a little more difficult to write, he is perceived in some circles to be a misogynistic entitled jerk, capable of head-shaking buffoonery, mean-spirited rudeness and Homer Simpson-like simple-mindedness.
Those three tenets are coming to bear all at once these days.
NDP MP Olivia Chow, fresh off being glorified in a CBC feature film, now says she would consider a run for mayor. This is music in the ears of the downtown “lefties” Ford has antagonized. On top of that, nearly every poll that has been taken suggests Ford is in trouble if Chow runs in the next election.
At the same time, Ford is facing some serious backlash for the way he has politicized his Don Bosco high school football squad. He has said in the past he is the only thing keeping his players off the street through his football program, but went further in Sun News interview last week suggesting the school was an unsafe, gang-infested place.
Parents are furious at the claim, accusing Ford of making their children seem worse off than they are for his political benefit. The Toronto Catholic School Board is investigating Ford’s comments.
“The way that he’s talking makes it look like all the kids at Don Bosco would be in the gutter if it wasn’t for him and his football program. And that’s not true,” co-chair Teresa Bridport told the Toronto Star.
[ More Brew: Toronto Mayor ‘Teflon’ Rob Ford has clear skies ahead ]
It is worth noting that many students and parents, even those who criticize Ford for politicizing his connection to football, praise him for being involved in the first place. Still, Ford has conceded so much under the guise of football, it should be concerning that football is now lashing back.
Finally, there are Thomson’s public accusations of buffoonery and sexual assault. These should not be taken lightly, but should be consumed with a grain of salt. All late-night accusations hurled against a public figure should be looked upon skeptically until a formal complaint has been issued.
Ford’s Chief of Staff Mark Towhey disputed Thomson’s claims to Newtalk 1010 on Friday, saying he was with Ford at the time and didn’t see anything untoward. One would suspect that if Thomson is as furious as she appears to be, an official complaint is pending. And the maelstrom of paperwork labeled “Rob Ford Controversies” grows larger.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, Mr. Ford. You say people are out to get you as you feed those same people with fodder.
It is almost as if you want someone to knock the crown off your head.