Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Author: Kevin Donovan
Page: A1


After the Star's Kevin Donovan first saw the video of Rob Ford smoking
crack, he assumed the scandal would resolve itself quickly

Driving through darkened streets back to my house south of Ford Nation
in May 2013, my mind raced with the impact of what I had just seen.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack and making some pretty nasty,
though mainly incoherent, statements.

Pulling into my driveway, I grabbed the hastily scratched notes made
hours before when colleague Robyn Doolittle and I viewed the shaky
video on an iPhone in a parked car.

My assumption was this: We would get a copy of the video, publish a
story, Ford would enter rehab and then return as a sober, saner,
elected official to finish out what would be his one and only term as
mayor. To me, that would be the smart resolution to a mini-bombshell.
Ripping a Band-Aid off quickly is less painful than slowly.

As history shows, that was not in Rob Ford's game book. As events
developed, I would have one regret over the events of Friday, May 3.

Walking into the house after midnight, I told my wife what I had seen.
We had a very interesting talk, something that foreshadowed much of
the early commentary that would dominate talk radio. Was this even a
story? In this day and age, are people, even high-profile public
figures, not allowed to let their hair down behind closed doors? Of
course they are. But this was different. As we would eventually learn,
the mayor of Toronto was hanging around with people involved not only
in the drug trade, but the gun trade. That's why this was a story.

Over the months that followed, I and others at the Star played a
cat-and-mouse game with Ford friends and sympathizers who did not want
stories of their leader out. I know Robyn was subjected to threats.
For me, there were a lot of vicious, sometimes comically so, phone
calls in the night, the occasional egging of our already yellow house
and the news that "bikers" were trying to find out where Donovan lives
so they could stop the Ford stories. My response to the Star was that
if these so-called bikers could not figure out where I lived, they
were a pretty sorry lot.

Rob Ford ignored my attempts to talk. I did run into Doug Ford one day
at CP24. He was leaving Stephen LeDrew's set and I was arriving.

"That's the little twerp who wrote them stories about my brother,"
Doug said as soon as the cameras clicked off for a commercial break.

I bounded up the short flight of steps and stuck out my hand. The
offer was ignored. Peter Sloly, who was deputy police chief, was also
in the studio and I was struck by this convergence. Ford Nation. Cops.
Media. That's what this story boiled down to pretty much. Add some
drug and gun dealers and the sad world of addiction and that sums up
the tale.

For all of their bravado in public, the Fords lacked the ability to
man up and confront the issue at hand with honesty.

Unable to get a copy of the video, we published a story about what we
had seen and heard. Until I saw the video, courtesy of the Sandro Lisi
court proceedings, I carried a nagging fear that we had got parts of
the dialogue wrong. That night in the back of that parked car no notes
could be taken, no recording devices used. As it turns out, what we
reported two years ago was pretty much what Rob Ford said.

What surprised me so much about the crack video story was the almost
immediate and angry reaction from the public and particularly morning
radio hosts in Toronto. I fielded calls from people with news tips but
also a very angry sector of the Somali population who objected -
rightly so - to my numerous references to "Somali drug dealers" in the
piece. We removed most. I arrived home about 2 a.m., got to sleep
about 3 a.m. and, just before 6 a.m., my cellphone seemed to be
bursting into flames. Call after call from talk radio, and the message
was clear: How dare you write about a video and not have the video as

Having covered the Afghanistan and Gulf wars, I tried to explain that
reporters have since the dawn of the profession reported on what they
have seen with their eyes and heard with their ears. Talk radio was
having none of it. It was not until later in the year when former
chief Bill Blair announced that the video had been recovered that the
tide turned. The alleged crack video became "the" crack video in all

This tale of a troubled man who became mayor and then was caught on
camera doing just one of many stupid things took on a life of its own
and I expect there are many who are glad the Lisi trial will not take
place. We know everything there is to know, and maybe more, about the
Ford reign. The former mayor was fortunate more videos were not taken.
One story I did, based on an audio recording and interviews, revealed
how he drove drunk, went on a racist tirade, and boasted that he often
has sex with "girls" in front of his wife. He suggested, according to
one man's account of that March 5, 2014, evening, that one man present
in his basement could have sex with Ford's wife. One of the men who
was in the basement with Ford that night was a fellow I tried on many
occasions to interview. Though there were some brave men who helped
track down the various Ford stories, at considerable personal risk, he
was not one of them. His responses to me, which I have saved, consist
mainly of t! hreats of sexual violence, often against my dear mother,
in her late 80s.

These event happened long after the original crack video story was
published. Which leads me to my one regret. That, while sitting in the
back seat with a man we now know was involved in the gun and drug
trade, I did not grab the phone from his hand, and sprint off with my
reporting partner. And post the video online.

It would have saved the city of Toronto a great deal of misery.
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