Though regarded by some portion of US media and public alike as a reliable/easy source of mirth, life as an actual constituent of former Toronto Mayor / crack cocaine enthusiast Rob Ford (above, left) was something less than a laff riot writes Haemorrhage Music’s Richard Feren. Ford, who died from cancer Tuesday, was “a disastrous mayor, but also a liar, a bully, an abuser, and an all-around horrible person,” writes Feren. But at least he was a man of the people!
Ford doesn’t deserve our compassion because he refused to ever learn from his wrongdoing, instead blaming everyone else, and because he showed so little compassion for anyone who didn’t belong to his small coterie of supporters. Everyone else was a target for his intolerant wrath: people who lived in the old city of Toronto, bicyclists (whom he blamed entirely for their own traffic fatalities), journalists, members of unions, homosexuals, civil servants, police chiefs… and all substance abusers other than himself. He once publicly proclaimed that crack smokers should be jailed, and even as his own drug-abuse scandal unfolded he railed against a proposal for safe-injection sites, which he claimed, without irony, would “set a bad example”.
Ten years ago, when he was a city councillor, a drunken Rob Ford caused such a disturbance at a Maple Leafs game that he had to be removed by security. A couple visiting from out of town received the brunt of his abuse, as he shrieked things like “How would you like your little wife to be raped and shot in Iran?” to them. While he could be forgiven for this misbehaviour (after all, he’s not the first person to be an obnoxious drunk at a sporting event), what he did next cannot be forgiven. Two days after the game, he was confronted by National Post reporters who’d gotten wind of this incident when they learned of a complaint filed by that visiting couple to the city clerk. Ford, presumably not drunk at the time, insisted to the media that it wasn’t him, he wasn’t even at that game, and that the couple must be lying. The following day, he reluctantly admitted the truth, but a pattern was established that he would repeatedly follow for the rest of his life: when caught doing something wrong, he would first deny it, and call his accusers liars, until his own lie could no longer be sustained, at which point he would begrudgingly own up to his own actions, while lashing out at anyone who mentioned it. This despicable modus operandi would be repeated on the 2010 campaign trail, when he denied that he’d ever been charged with drug possession in a 1999 Florida drunk-driving incident, and most famously when he denied for six whole months that he’d been caught on video smoking crack with violent street-gang members. For those six months, Ford continually accused reporters who’d seen the video of lying, until eventually when the police recovered the video, he finally admitted to smoking crack, and claimed that his six months of lying was the fault of reporters who “hadn’t asked the right question”.
One of Ford’s most jarring hypocrisies, given his condition, was his rejection of public healthcare: “I don’t believe in all this public-funded healthcare,” he said. “If you want healthcare, you pay for it.” To my knowledge, Ford never publicly revised his stand on this issue, and there’s been no hint that the Ford family intends to repay taxpayers for the costs of his medical treatment. This, above all, really sums up who Rob Ford truly was: a spoiled rich guy who rejected public healthcare until he needed it himself, while still wanting to deny that same treatment to other cancer victims. Let that be his epitaph.