Reporters who broke Ford story paid heavy price
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s trail of victims appears to be growing, and his family may be counted among them.
His wife, and particularly his children, must have personally felt the repercussions of Ford’s destructive behaviour. Then there are the citizens he let down, his colleagues at Toronto city hall that he accused of being corrupt, the police he accused of conspiring against him, and on and on.
We might even include every Canadian he embarrassed during his recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show.
I’m sure Toronto Star reporters Robyn Doolittle, Kevin Donovan and Daniel Dale don’t consider themselves victims of Ford, but clearly, they felt his wrath when they exposed him.
After being spotted looking at parkland behind Ford’s residence, Dale was accosted by the mayor, who then insinuated the reporter was there to take pictures of Ford’s children.
The police eventually exonerated Dale, and Ford was forced to recant and apologize.
When Doolittle and Donovan broke the story of Ford smoking crack cocaine, their lives changed dramatically. In her book Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, Doolittle explains the ramifications of reporting on the infamous crack video involving the mayor.
“The attacks came from every angle — letters, email, phone, Twitter, texts, Facebook, talk radio, and conservative columnists. Four months later and they were still coming. Donovan and I were getting death threats and harassing calls at all hours of the night. The paper was under siege with complaints.”
It didn’t end there, as the Ontario Press Council heard a public complaint made against the Toronto Star for its story on the crack video. The council dismissed the complaint, and said the Star had “followed appropriate journalistic guidelines.”
Given that Ford had referred to members of the Toronto Star, and other media, as “pathological liars and scumbags,” and said they “couldn’t be trusted,” it’s no wonder an Ipsos poll taken shortly after these events showed nearly half of the respondents in Toronto thought the reporters were lying.
Ford leveraged these events and used his now-cancelled radio talk show to reinforce anti-media sentiment, while promoting the idea that there was a conspiracy against him involving the media and the chief of police.
The press council and the public ultimately vindicated these reporters when Police Chief Bill Blair publicly revealed the video in question had been found.
These journalists paid a price for doing their job. They were threatened, harassed and called liars, and why? Because an elected official knew the truth, yet refused to acknowledge it. What’s worse, he didn’t just sit back and offer a “no comment.” He attacked these reporters just to bury the facts from the public.
The Star reporters had acted responsibly and in the best interests of the community on a matter that was of significant public concern. It’s unfortunate that vindication is the only reward they get. They deserve more for bringing this story to light and discovering a truth that most couldn’t comprehend.
The Star reporters — and the Toronto Police Service — served their public well, and despite Ford’s rabid attacks, denials and accusations, they won’t complain. They will let the facts speak for themselves and let the public decide Ford’s fate.
I know Torontonians may forgive Ford for his embarrassing character flaws and his substance abuse problems. Canadians, in general, are forgiving people, and Torontonians are no different. What I don’t know is how a mayor who is sworn to serve the public can readily connive and attack the same public with such vitriol, just to save his own skin.
For a politician that is unforgivable, inexcusable and in Ford’s case, should be politically fatal.
Gary Askin, of Waterloo, is a recently retired police officer who is now a licensed private investigator.