Reaction Roundup: city hall insiders respond to allegations that Rob Ford has a drinking problem

Reaction Roundup: city hall insiders respond to allegations that Rob Ford has a drinking problem

The Toronto Star created a city-wide firestorm when its story about Rob Ford’s alleged drinking problem hit newsstands yesterday. The article, which relies on the testimony of several anonymous sources, elicited feverish and contradictory responses from a host of Toronto’s prominent people, including the Star’s editor-in-chief Michael Cooke (who calls it “airtight”) and Ford himself (who says it’s “just lies after lies and lies”). We take up the main points of contention below. 

Who’s lying: Ford or the Toronto Star
In an angry rant, Ford called the story “an outright lie” and its reporters “pathological liars,” while Doug Ford surmises the paper is plotting to mire the mayor in expensive legal battles. Cooke, however, stands by his team’s reporting: “If we’re lying, then it means that the five people in his inner circle who’ve approached us over the last few months and year, who care about him, who love that guy, are also liars.”

• Is Rob Ford’s drinking problem really an “open secret” at city hall?
Despite never herself having seen the mayor intoxicated, councillor Sarah Doucette says, “I think it’s been known around City Hall for quite a while that he may have a drinking problem.” Joe Mihevc, another left-leaning councillor, also threw his support behind the Star story, saying, “There is something there and I think many of us have been privy to it.” However, the so-called open secret appears not to have reached councillors Michael Thompson, Gary Crawford, Doug Holyday and Frank Di Giorgio, all of whom say they’ve never seen Ford take a drink. Still, all stopped short of refuting the Star’s claims; Di Giorgio, for instance, says while “obviously there may be some factual evidence…it’s a matter of degree, whether the mayor was drunk or whether he had had a few drinks.”

• Was Ford out of control at the Garrison Ball? Some people say no…
According to the Star, the mayor, inebriated to the point of nearly falling down the stairs, was asked to leave the annual armed forces gala event last month. The mayor’s chief of staff Mark Towhey flatly denies that charge (“No one asked the mayor to leave and no one asked me to ask the mayor to leave”) while Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who attended the event, says that Ford “looked fine to me.”

• …but Paul Ainslie still says yes.
Councillor and Garrison Ball co-organizer Paul Ainslie is standing by earlier comments that he urged staffers to to remove Ford from the gala. In a leaked email sent to his fellow organizers yesterday, he wrote that he found Ford “somewhat incoherent” and advised Towhey to get him out of there. Unsurprisingly, he denies that he’s lashing out at Ford because he was passed over for the budget chair position.

• Can readers trust the Star’s anonymous sources?
• Columnists were split on this question. Simon Kent of the Toronto Sun writes that unanswered questions about the motives of the informants undermines the article’s claims, while Star columnist Rosie DiManno argues the fact that individuals do not weaken the story at all, because the editors know the identities of all the sources cited.

• Ford responds to report [CBC]
• Ford’s chief of staff denies being asked to have mayor leave gala [Globe and Mail]
• ‘Pathological liars’: Mayor Rob Ford has furious outburst as he denies ‘intoxicated’ report, staff wants him in rehab [National Post]
Rob Ford: Ainslie email details what happened at Garrison Ball [Toronto Star]
Rob Ford: Mayor has appeared intoxicated, says councillor Sarah Doucette [Toronto Star]
• Anonymous sources shake Star’s Rob Ford drinking story [Toronto Sun]
• Mayor Rob Ford needs to explain his erratic behaviour: DiManno [Toronto Star]