The holes in Rob Ford’s apology

The questions the mayor left unanswered — and why they’ll come back to haunt him

To gauge by the emotion in his voice, Rob Ford’s apology was heartfelt. He quavered, paused and, rhetorically speaking, staggered to the end into the arms of his brother Doug. “I’m the first one to admit I am not perfect,” the Toronto mayor told listeners of the weekend show the Fords’ host on Newstalk 1010. “I have made mistakes.”

All I can do right now is apologize for the mistakes. I sincerely, sincerely apologize to my family, to the citizens, the taxpayers of this great city, and to my colleagues on Toronto city council. Unfortunately, I cannot change the past. I can just move forward and learn from the past, which I assure you I am doing.

Hmm. Can you expand, Mr. Mayor, on that learning part?

I also know that to move forward, I have to make changes in my life, which I can assure you I will do. I love the work I do and I’m going to keep doing it. I want to keep working for the people of this city.

Ford, in case you’ve been in a deep-ocean submersible, was responding to news that police have recovered the infamous crack video that made worldwide headlines last spring. The clip, which was viewed by journalists from Gawker.com and the Toronto Star, shows the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine while uttering racist and homophobic remarks. Ford had initially brushed aside the reports, saying he couldn’t comment on a video that “doesn’t exist or I haven’t seen.”

Well, now it appears to exist. And in an unexpected show of bravado, Ford himself called today on Police Chief Bill Blair to release the footage for all to see.

But there’s also the matter of police surveillance information released the same day news of the video came out. It paints a picture of the mayor as living the life of a delinquent teenager over the past few months—drinking in the woods, gulping vodka in school parking lots and generally consorting with folks of ill-repute.

So at this point of the mayor’s hotly anticipated statement, even true-believing Ford supporters might have hoped to hear exactly what about himself the mayor plans to change, and how he expects to do it. Is he checking into rehab? Attending a remote fishing camp, where he’ll be out of the reach of the likes of Sandro Lisi? Hiring Nanny McPhee?

They and the Ford-haters would wait in vain. What had been billed in the city’s media all morning as an “announcement” trailed off into the usual platitudes about loving the city of Toronto and wanting to “fight for the little guy.” Doug, who also sits on council, offered some peppy words to his brother, and then—to borrow the Ford boys’ idiom—we all moved forward.  Rob Ford is not resigning. He isn’t even saying he’ll taking a leave.

There was one more item of note. While thanking well-wishers for their messages of encouragement, the mayor did get around to admitting: “There’s no one to blame but myself and I take full responsibility for it.” This suggests the press will get at least brief respite from his claims of a vast media conspiracy fueled by “made-up stories.” That’ll be nice, though I wouldn’t bet on the truce lasting long.

As for this vague statement easing the pressure on Ford: forget it. It leaves too much open to question, and here’s my list for the full and exhaustive press conference the mayor should have held after today’s show:

  • For what, exactly, is he taking responsibility? Smoking (alleged) crack? Consorting with drug dealers and girlfriend-beaters? Lying to Torontonians about the existence of the video? Suggesting respected journalists are fabricating stories? There’s a lot Ford (and his brother) should be sorry for. It would help if he specified.
  • What about those “changes” Ford’s making? Is he fighting a substance abuse problem? If so, how does he plan to do that while remaining mayor?
  • If not, will he at least get himself a driver? Ford has refused a chauffeur on the grounds it would cost the taxpayer too much money. But if the surveillance information is accurate, he on more than one occasion drove after drinking. I think most taxpayers would pony up a penny or two to safeguard themselves from such people. UPDATE: The mayor confirmed during today’s show that he is in fact getting a driver, a move his brother lauded as a “positive change.”
  • Should we brace for more? Chief Blair revealed Thursday there is a second video, which the Toronto Star reports also features Ford. Blacked out portions of the surveillance information, meanwhile, suggest there’s much about the mayor’s movement over the past few weeks we don’t yet know.
  • Is Ford prepared to do something to repair the city’s international image? “Der bürgermeister das und crack-video,” hollered a Frankfurt newspaper on Friday—a summation of the fiasco that works as well in English as in German. How one undoes this sort of publicity I have no idea. But then, I’m not the one who created it. Rob Ford is.

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