After a week marred in scandal and surprisingly stark silence, the Ford Brothers were back in fine form yesterday turning their Newstalk 1010 radio show. After the opening rake out, the labeling of the media as "maggots," and a recital of eating establishments they either have visited or plan to visit, the brothers put on a good front of business as usual attitude. Of course, it's easy to not answer questions when you're the one controlling the switchboard, but back at City Hall today it seemed that one press conference and an hour of community radio-style free-for-all hasn't quelled the media's lust for the story that drove the brothers underground last week.
Leaving aside the politics, and the rather divisive feelings that the Fords and their style of governance drudge up, the last week was nothing short of a PR disaster. If the Fords' few media allies were calling foul as the week wore on, reserving judgment on the fact of whether or not Rob Ford was addicted to crack and there being a video to prove it, while chastizing him for letting the media vacuum march on unchallenged, then he should have know how deeply in trouble he was. But if the allegations were untrue, why didn't he straight up deny it, and if they were true, why not admit the mess up, fess up and dress up?
The whole thing would be funny if the allegations weren't so serious, not to mention the implications. Chief of Staff Mark Twohey was fired Thursday for apparently offering some advice his boss didn't think very much of, and two other staffers - press secretary George Christopoulos and his deputy Isaac Ransom - quit today. Ford tried to write it off as a natural transition for the duo having been offered new opportunities in the private sector, but given the practical circus atmosphere that followed Twohey out of City Hall, it seems somewhat unlikely that the public relations specialists chose the worst possible time from a public relations perspective to quit.
In another rare move today, Ford apologized for his branding the media as "maggots" on yesterday's radio show. Perhaps he sensed he had gone too far, or perhaps he sensed that the media fervour over the drug allegations wouldn't be going away any time soon, but it was a truly rare Ford moment. One can't blame Rob for wanting it all to go away. He surely thought on Friday that it was almost over, but then the Globe and Mail published a rather exhaustive account of Doug Ford's apparent misspent youth as Etobicoke's premier hash dealer. Although the Globe report relied heavily on anonymous sources that kind of article is unlikely to help Doug's provincial ambitions, not to mention his brother's current predicament.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter: a whole lot of rumour, speculation and innuendo. Only three people have seen the offending tape that everyone's reporting on, and while its difficult to doubt the veracity of the Toronto Star, especially since they pretty much staked the reputation of the entire paper on a tape they don't have, but unless there's some kind of study or authentication of the actual video, this is always going to be a case of "he said, they said." And that's also why rumours that the Fords bought the film, spawning their new found sense of ease in the media. I'm generally not a fan of conspiracy theories, but the Fords week-long duck and cover routine is most easily explained by a search and recovery operation to find and secure the tape.
Regardless, this controversy isn't going away. With over 500 days to go in the Ford administration the allegations are going to follow him in spite of the progress Ford's made on his core issues of fiscal accountability. Unless the video is proven real or not, whether it exists or not, crack is going to be a keyword search though the next year and half, and on into his currently planned re-election campaign. Like any PR disaster, the focus is more on the destruction than the clean-up, and whatever time is left for Ford, it's not going to be the way he wants to spend that time, in silence or not.