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Five perspectives on Angry Rob Ford's encounter with a reporter

You know the story by now. Late in the evening on Wednesday – before it got dark – Rob Ford discovers Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale on public land near his house. Angry, the mayor confronts Dale and, per the reporter's account, “cocked his fist near his head and began charging.” Dale dropped what he was carrying and ran. Sometime after, the police and media were called.

Dale says he was there only to follow up on a story he had written about the Ford family's bid to buy public land near their home. Ford says this is yet another example of the Star's crazed vendetta against him.

The rest of us are left with a few different ways to look at a very odd story.

1. The Toronto Star should have known better

Let's be real. The Star knows the history they have with Rob Ford. They know he holds the opinion that the newspaper accused him of rough behaviour toward high school students. They know he hasn't gotten over that. He wants his front page apology.

So knowing all that, who decides to put a reporter – alone, unannounced – in the vicinity of the mayor's house? Especially in the evening when Ford and his neighbours were likely to be home – and not used to seeing people strolling through the unpopulated areas behind their quiet suburban homes.

Daniel Dale is a very good reporter with a well-deserved reputation for fairness. By every account, he wasn't doing anything illegal or even slightly malicious when he stood near the Ford home yesterday. But, given all the toxic history, it seems fair to question the decisions and judgement that led Dale to that part of Etobicoke.

There are a few different ways mature adults could be expected to react upon seeing a well-known reporter near their property. Maybe, if you're really paranoid, you call the police. Maybe you approach calmly and ask about the reporter's intentions. Maybe you simply draw the curtains and file the incident away as yet another example of why being a public figure sucks.

Ford chose a different approach, ditching maturity and adulthood and opting for an angry charge at a terrified target.

The specifics of this story are irrelevant. A member of the press, standing on public property, should never have to worry that the mayor of Canada's largest city might physically attack.

3. The Fords jumped on an opportunity to shame the Toronto Star

The media horde arrived shortly before 10 p.m. for a big scrum with the mayor and his brother, with assorted members of the mayor's staff in attendance. Both Rob and Doug spent the night and some time this morning doing interviews to discuss the story.

There's a curious gap in the timeline between 8 and 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, between the time of the confrontation and the breaking story. That gap is important – in it, this incident went from being a confused conflict between two men to something far more meaningful: it became a full-on and coordinated indictment of the Toronto Star.

4. This whole thing only serves to make Rob Ford look sympathetic

With the average voter, this story can only play well for the mayor. How can you fault a guy for overzealously protecting his family? Especially considering all the nasty things we've heard about the unfair Toronto media and how they simply don't like Ford and his policies.

The Star has long been accused of waging a vendetta against the mayor. The mayor, in recent months, has looked a lot like an “average guy” underdog who has been bulled by arrogant career politicians and an unfriendly media.

In the eyes of a lot of people, this incident cements both reputations.

5. Irrelevant Irrelevant Irrelevant

What impact does the reporter found near Rob Ford's backyard have on transit policy? On the city's budget? On affordable housing? On policies that will foster “respect for taxpayers”?

Added up, this is just another in a long line of distracting Rob Ford clown show moments. Like a lot of the things the mayor does these days, it's not really worth the attention it gets.

This post was originally published at on 2012-05-03T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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