With friends like Rob Ford…Part 2
Mayor Rob Ford peed on the leg of the wrong guy when he made a screaming, profanity-laced phone call to Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington.
The Scrawler, as Warmington is known, has been as good a friend to Ford as anyone in the media, often taking the mayor’s side when everyone else was piling onto him, even if he had to twist himself into a pretzel to do it.
The Sun is Ford’s most faithful media booster, and Warmington has stayed with the script.
But he is not afraid to take on sacred Sun cows. He's a relentless critic of Toronto police conduct during the 2010 G8 protests, and Chief Bill Blair’s response, which must go down hard with the cops, who are used to a soft ride in the Sun.
So I wasn’t surprised to read a Scrawler column last week that was critical of Ford’s comments about Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s odious photo of a recreation centre employee with his head down on a desk.
Ford wants the guy fired, along with his supervisor. A summary execution for allegedly sleeping on the job.
Warmington wrote that the mayor didn’t know the circumstances, and should show some class and take the high road. Be big-hearted and give the guy a chance to explain himself, he said, noting the
mayor has been in some pickles that require a lot of explaining.
He also wrote that Ford should have taken the same high road on the robo-attack calls made to Councillor Paul Ainslie’s Ward 43 constituents, saying Ainslie betrayed them.
Anyone who knows Warmington (and I do) knows he has a big heart and would give the worker the same courtesy that he has often extended to Ford.
It was good advice, but Ford didn’t see it that way. Warmington wrote in a Monday column that Ford called him at home Sunday and unleashed on him, screaming “I’m so f…… mad at you right now,” several times into the phone.
He described the mayor as “fuming, profane and belligerent,” and wrote that Ford warned him “I am not the only one that is pissed at you…there are others,” which sounded to him like a threat.
What could prompt such an angry, irrational response to reasoned criticism?
The circle of people still on Ford’s side grows smaller by the day, and alienating one of the only columnists who can find anything good to say about him is suicidal.
With Ford’s biggest cheerleader, Sue Ann Levy, now filing Sun columns from Queen’s Park, the mayor is out of friends in the city hall press gallery.
An anecdote: When I was a reporter in the Star’s city hall bureau, I covered Jack Layton, a city councillor at the time. Before he or I got to city hall, Layton was my urban politics professor at Ryerson University in 1980-81, and an old friend.
I wrote a story that cast Layton in an unfavorable light, which he gently grumbled about, reminding me we’d been friends since Ryerson.
I reminded him that he came off looking pretty good in most of my stories, and that the unflattering ones were rare. A few critical stories made the rest of my reporting on him more credible, I told him.
Layton never complained to me again. He was a smart guy.
Warmington says he will continue to support Ford when he thinks he is right, but I doubt he’ll dig as hard to find that shiny pearl in the mayor’s muck.
That’s a big problem for Ford. After all, who else is left?
The bunker mentality is deepening.