Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was reportedly filmed smoking crack, but this hardly would be his first controversy. From getting thrown out of a hockey game to getting thrown out of office, Caitlin Dickson looks at Rob Ford’s greatest hits.
News that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have been caught on film hitting a crackpipe almost immediately conjured up old memories of America’s favorite crack-smoking politician, Marion Barry, and prompted the predictable comparisons between the Canadian conservative and the former mayor of Washington, D.C. But Ford’s alleged crack smoking is hardly his first controversy, and a quick scan through the archives reveals that the top Torontonian has been giving Barry a run for his money in the scandal department for more than a decade. From racial insensitivity to drunken belligerence, here’s a collection of Rob Ford’s greatest hits.
Temporarily Relieved of His Duties
Just under six months ago, an Ontario judge ordered that Ford be removed from office and relieved of his mayoral duties. Earlier in 2012, it was revealed that Ford had improperly used the city letterhead to solicit $3,150 in donations for his high-school football charity. When the debate over whether Ford should pay back his donors—as recommended by Toronto’s integrity commissioner—reached City Hall, the mayor participated in the vote, despite being directly affected by its outcome. Ford was then brought to court for taking part in the vote without acknowledging the clear conflict of interest. Despite insisting that he’d never received a handbook of rules—so how could he be expect to know them?—he was found guilty and given two weeks to step down from his post. Ford appealed, however, and won, continuing to serve as mayor for at least a little while longer.
This Deal ‘Stinks to High Heaven’
Around the same time that Rob Ford was in court for the conflict-of-interest case, he was also the subject a $6 million defamation lawsuit. During his 2010 mayoral race, Ford told the Toronto Sun’s editorial board that a city council deal to extend the local Boardwalk Pub’s 20-year lease to sell food on the beach was an example of city hall’s “corruption and skulduggery” and that it “stinks to high heaven.” The restaurant’s owner, George Foulidis, sued the mayor for libel but the case was ultimately thrown out of court.
‘If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably’
As notoriously frugal as he is offensive, Ford came under fire in 2006, while he was a city chancellor, for arguing that a $1.5 million AIDS prevention program was a waste of taxpayer money because most people are not at risk for the disease. “It is very preventable,” he told the city council. “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s the bottom line.” Ford was unapologetic for his comments, insisting, “those are the facts.”
Ending the War on the Car, One Bike Lane at a Time
If there is anyone Rob Ford has less sympathy for than people who willfully expose themselves to AIDS, it’s cyclists. During his campaign for mayor, Ford pledged to tackle “the war on the car,” perpetuated by arrogant cyclists who were under the false impression that the street belongs just as much to them as it does cars. Once elected, he began having Toronto’s bike lanes removed. “What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten,” Ford explained. “And every year we have dozens of people that get hit by cars or trucks. Well, no wonder: roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”
‘The Oriental People, They’re Slowly Taking Over’
During a 2008 City Council debate over whether stores should be able to stay open on state holidays, Rob Ford felt compelled to stand up and extoll the virtues of Toronto’s hardworking Asian community. “Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers nonstop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life,” Ford told the stunned council. “I went to Seoul, South Korea, I went to Taipei, Taiwan. I went to Tokyo, Japan. That’s why these people are so hard workers [sic]. I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.” Dumbfounded by the outrage his statement sparked, Ford refused calls for an apology. Since when is the term “Oriental” politically incorrect? No one told him! Several Asian people even staged a sit-in at Toronto’s City Hall to demand that Ford take back his insensitive remarks just as publicly as he originally made them, but he would only make individual apologies to people who personally called his office. You know who else has caused a stir with offensive ranting against Asian immigrants? Marion Barry, of course.
Wait, What Is Transgender?
Call him old-fashioned, but Rob Ford doesn’t quite get why the city of Toronto needs to sponsor programs for its transgender residents. Actually, let’s back it up. Rob Ford doesn’t quite get what the word “transgender” means. “I don’t understand,” Ford confessed during a 2005 City Council debate on transgender and transexual grant programs. “No. 1, I don’t understand a transgender. I don’t understand—is it a guy dressed up like a girl or a girl dressed up like a guy? And we’re funding this for, I don’t know, what does it say here? We’re giving them $3,210?”
‘Go Ahead, Take Me to Jail’
Often overlooked in the midst of his other scandals is Rob Ford’s 1999 DUI. When Ford was pulled over in Miami, where he and his wife had been celebrating Valentine’s Day over wine, he threw his hands up and said, “Go ahead, take me to jail.” The then-29-year-old had not yet been elected to city council, but the incident came back to haunt him during his 2010 campaign for mayor. When asked by a local newspaper about beating a marijuana-possession rap from that same night, Ford said, “I completely forgot until you mentioned it right now. You think I’m BSing you, but I’m not. It completely, totally slipped my mind.” He later insisted that the reason he forgot about the pot charge was because the only charge he’d actually received that night was failing to give a breath sample. However, court documents, Miami-Dade police, and even Ford’s lawyer confirmed that the would-be mayor had been charged with a DUI, fined $664.75, banned from driving in Florida for a year, and sentenced to 50 hours of community service. Ford said he completed the community-service hours by volunteering with a private Toronto football team he’d already been coaching since 1997—something that neither his fellow coaches nor his brother and campaign manager Doug Ford were aware of until the 2010 story came out.
Drinking Problem? What Drinking Problem?
No one likes to admit when they’ve had too much to drink. Ford has been escorted out of at least two separate events for getting too drunk, and both times he’s publicly denied it. The first time was at a Maple Leafs game in 2006, where he verbally harassed a couple of out-of-towners; the second was at the annual Garrison Ball celebrating the Canadian Armed Forces. Eventually, Ford apologized for the Maple Leafs incident, admitting that he’d lied to the media about being intoxicated, but continued to vehemently deny getting kicked out of the Garrison Ball, calling the reports “lies after lies and lies.”
‘What Does OxyContin Go for on the Street?’
Like Marion Barry before him, Ford has experience being “set up.” In June 2010, the newly minted mayor was recorded discussing how to find the potent painkiller OxyContin on the street with an HIV-positive man complaining that he was unable to find a doctor who would prescribe him the cocktail of drugs needed to assuage his pain. The man asked Ford if he could help him out, to which Ford replied, “I’ll try buddy, I’ll try. I don’t know this shit, but I’ll fucking try to find it.” Despite saying he didn’t know any dealers and highly doubted that he’d be able to get his hands on the drug, he asked, “What does OxyContin go for on the street, so I have an idea?” Ironically, Ford had first met the man seeking the painkillers in 2006, when he apologized for his aforementioned comments about AIDS and evidently promised to help him get proper medical care.
A History of Alleged Violence
In March 2008, Ford was arrested and charged with assaulting his wife, Renata, and verbally threatening to kill her. Ford maintained his innocence and eventually the charges were dropped because Renata’s story didn’t line up. In 2001 the Toronto Star reported that the Toronto School Board asked Ford to stop coaching football at a local high school in response to reports that he had “aggressively manhandled [one] student in anger.” Ford and the student he allegedly roughed up both deny the claim.