A sexually-charged scandal that rocked Toronto City Hall last week continued to rock the city over the weekend, as Mayor Rob Ford and former rival Sarah Thomson continue to trade barbs over whether he sexually assaulted her at a party.
Thomson, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 mayoral election, has alleged that Ford grabbed her ass while posing for photographs at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee Action party on Thursday. She also claims Ford suggested they “would have had fun” if she had joined him on a trip to Florida while his wife was absent.
Those are the claims that set off a “he said, she said” battle that waged across social media and newspaper headlines, on radio talk shows and in the gutters.
Here is how it has gone down so far:
From Thomson’s Facebook page, Thursday night:
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!
From Ford’s Facebook page, Friday morning:
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. What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe.
Richmond Hill Coun. Greg Beros alleges Thomson and assistant Sarah Patterson planned to set up Ford:
So, I turn over to see what they're talking about, and Sarah [Thomson] says, 'We need to go upstairs. We need to get a picture with Rob Ford's hand near your butt. It would be good for a campaign.
Thomson says “something was wrong with the mayor” on Friday:
Obviously he's not in his right self, and he has issues that he needs to deal with. But for the mayor of the city to be treating someone like me that way, it's so wrong on so many levels.
And if he treats me that way and I don't say anything, he could treat someone else that way. It may make me look bad in some way, but I really believe that you have to stand up for what's right.
Ford’s Chief of Staff Mark Towhey on Friday, to the Toronto Sun:
The only thing he drank when he was there was about four glasses of water that I brought him and a bottle of water that the staff had. It was hot and so he drank a lot of water.
[ More Brew: Mayor Rob Ford denies groping former rival Sarah Thomson ]
Thomson on the John Tory Show on Newstalk 1010, Friday evening:
I would like to take a lie-detector test and prove to people he said it to me. I'd like him to come down with me, let's go down to the police station, let's get a lie-detector test and see who is telling the truth here.
Rob Ford, via Toronto Sun on Saturday:
I don’t screw around (and) I never have. You can accuse me of all kinds of things but never accuse me of stealing or screwing around.
National Post’s Christie Blatchford on Saturday:
Amid the sea of voices were some fretting that Ms. Thomson was being re-victimized by having the inconsistencies in her story questioned, but when you attempt to try a man in the court of public opinion, you reap what you sow.
Ford on his Sunday radio program. Via The Globe and Mail:
I’ve always said, I don’t know if she’s playing with a full deck from the first time I met her. And I told her that that night…. When people, you know, want to make up stories, that’s their prerogative.
Thomson on Facebook, Sunday night:
He must be discouraged from over indulging to the point where he is groping or making lewd comments, and women should not put up with it when it happens. The Mayor was outrageous, he acted horribly, and I won't be intimidated by the whitewashing he has tried so hard to generate.
Decades ago powerful men who sexually assaulted women would call them "hysterical," or "crazy" to debase their credibility. It pushed many assaulted women into silence. Today Mayor Ford stated that hewondered if I was "playing with a full deck" try to discredit me. He will not push me into silence and I hope his accusations do not re-ignite the old fears that once silenced women.
Thomson on Kiss 925 Toronto, Monday morning, via the Sun’s Don Peat:
— Don Peat (@reporterdonpeat) March 11, 2013
The problem is that the longer this back and forth continues, the worse everyone looks. Thomson has made a very serious and difficult allegation and has been roundly attacked by Ford's supporters and allies.
Ford has roundly dismissed those allegation, and those who have trouble with his record of honesty will remain dissatisfied with his claim of innocence. Thomson has said she will not ask police to press charges.
Meantime, suggestions by Ford's camp that a lawsuit could follow and hints from Thomson that others at the party have commented on Ford's strange behaviour are entirely offset until fresh revelations arise.
Until then, the babbling should stop. That is not to say the allegations of sexual assault should be swept under the carpet. But the whole affair is currently being kept in motion like a tennis ball being passed between two players. And neither can score match point in this affair.