What to make of what Rob Ford said

Toronto mayor’s denial lobs the ball back to the media

(Chris Young, The Canadian Press)

“Toodle-oo!!!” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters through the window of his Cadillac Escalade in city hall’s basement parking lot this afternoon, enunciating it in such a way that underscored how that form of adieu rhymes with another phrase, one that’s two words, begins with “F” and ends with “U.”

Ford was rolling away after his exquisite performance before a battery of cameras and frustrated reporters, a press conference appearance wherein he actually did what he failed spectacularly at doing for a week—he talked—and which may well put an end to the dogged media pursuit he’s been shouldering since Gawker editor John Cook first alleged he saw a video showing him smoking crack.

“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he said (neglecting in that denial, as many would later point out, the use of the word “never”).” As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.”

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Ford had shaved his hair to a dramatic, Yul Brynner-esque finish, no doubt in a bid to broadcast a crackless asceticism. It misfired, somewhat, recalling the hairless, decadent Marlon Brando as Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

Nothing more, really, needed to be said. Those gathered in the hazy atmospheric crush inside the presser room at city hall thought either he might resign, or that he would give voice to that unspoken defiance he’d been presenting them with for seven whole and exhausting days. Ford chose the latter, and spoke his words clearly, with a muted fury, and in a way that conveyed a strange certainty no video would soon emerge (either because he has never smoked crack or knows it is impossible that one will ever surface).

There’s something attractive about defiance, a deeply rooted appeal, and you can imagine the climactic scene of some weird urban-gangsta-sandal-and-sword film mixture in which one Spartacus after another stands up to the Romans and shouts, “I do not use crack cocaine!” “Nor, I, I am not a crack user!” “Me too, no crack here!”

With their press conference, the Fords (Doug, the mayor’s councillor brother, spoke after Rob walked away from the podium and out the door), have lobbed the ball into the media’s court. It’s up to them to keep this story, true or not, alive.

But provided news organizations don’t over the coming days bring forward new evidence, the Fords may still beat all this. The news conference was designed to appease those who were beginning to stray—political allies (Doug Holyday, the deputy mayor, stood beside Rob today) as well as their largely suburban Ford Nation base.

Some people need only the slightest excuse to turn away from what others take to be self-evident.

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