Aside from enough profanity to make the navy blush, there are several words to describe Rob Ford. A few that often come to my mind are incompetent, liar, corrupt, racist, misogynist, homophobe, and criminal associate. I think after profanity, those would top most people’s list. Since his return I’d add another word. Scared.
Ford began his return Monday with a “press conference”. I use quotes because several accredited members of the City Hall press gallery were barred from attending. It was also made clear Ford would not be taking questions.
That doesn’t fit my definition of a press conference, but as we are continually reminded both Rob and Doug have their own definitions of words, racism for example. Predictably, Ford’s speech turned quickly from contrition to campaigning. He tried to continue campaigning the next day at East York Canada Day parade. Then along ran Joe Killoran, now forever known as #ShirtlessJogger.
There had already been reports of Ford being booed at the parade when Joe Killoran stopped to make himself heard. You have likely heard him by now too, if not you can here. Joe calls out Ford for being racist, corrupt, homophobic, and most of all his refusal to answer questions about any of it.
“Answer the question” Joe repeatedly yelled at Ford, like a sweaty topless lawyer in a beach based legal drama. Ford, a man so often known for confrontation and bombast sheepishly walked away. In fact some time after Ford left the parade all together, without completing the route.
The brilliance of this moment, other than watching frustration boil over so articulately, is Joe Killoran in an instant seems to have scuttled the entire redemption story Ford was hoping for. The story instantly became less about the many questions surrounding Ford, and focused on his refusal to answer them.
Ford gave two sit down interviews yesterday, in which he did the same thing. He refused to answer tougher questions about his criminal connections, or how a woman came to be arrested for driving his SUV under the influence. In an almost meta moment he refused to answer questions about refusing to answer questions the police have for him.
He tried invoking his lawyer and patient confidentiality, neither of which apply, but the result was the same. Ford was refusing to answer questions, and that again became what people focused on.
Ford looked uncharacteristically cowed in these interviews. He spoke at a slow pace as though he was deliberately trying to run out the clock. He may have been scared by what questions would come up given too much time, or scared of saying something incriminating.
Lending itself to that theory, subsequent interviews scheduled for today were cancelled and Ford has ignored media questions at events today. It’s as though his contempt for the media has been usurped by a new found fear of their questions. Afraid to answer them, afraid that will be the story if he doesn’t.
Mostly, I think he is afraid the redemption narrative he was counting on is not working. He has held up the phrase “I have a disease” like a shield for his other wrongs from a sword of scrutiny. Yet the questions did not stop because while addiction is a disease, it is not is a defense for what Ford refuses to answer for.
I think Ford is also afraid there will be more Joes on the campaign trail. More and more ordinary citizens he can’t accuse of being part of the media conspiracy. Citizens whose outrage at Ford’s wrongs and his arrogance in refusing to address them will culminate into more made for You Tube moments.
I highly doubt any of these fears will keep Ford from continuing to run. He may have had a moment of pause but his ego, ambition and delusion are powerful forces themselves. Make no mistake though, from this point out he will be running scared.