Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has apologized to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale over remarks suggesting he was a pedophile and that the reporter was spying on his children. But Dale is not satisfied, and will be pursuing the libel lawsuit.
“I never called Mr. Dale a pedophile, I have never used that word to describe Mr. Dale, I do not believe Mr. Dale is a pedophile nor did I intend to suggest that in my comments," Ford's apology began in council chambers on Tuesday.
"To be clear, I never personally saw Mr. Dale peering over the fence or taking pictures," Ford went on, saying he wished to sincerely apologize to Dale.
Dale, though, said the mayor's apology is not sufficient.
"His statement today didn't come close. I'm proceeding with a defamation lawsuit," said Dale on Twitter.
"I didn't ask for an 'I apologize if.' I asked for an 'I apologize because I said false, damaging, and unfounded things, and here they are.' And, crucially, he didn't retract or specifically apologize for the categorically false, malicious, and in-itself-defamatory claim about me taking pictures of his young kids."
Dale filed a notice of libel to Ford last week. In it, there was a deadline for the mayor to retract and apologize for comments he made during a Vision TV interview with Conrad Black.
In the interview, Ford said: "Daniel Dale is in my backyard taking pictures. I have little kids. He's taking pictures of little kids. I don't want to say that word but you start thinking what this guy is all about."
'Did not mean to suggest he is a pedophile'
On Tuesday, he claimed the unsaid word was not pedophile.
"It's unfortunate the word I did not say has been ascribed to me by the media," Ford said. "I certainly did not mean to suggest he is a pedophile."
He said he trusted a report from a neighbour he has known for 15 years that there was someone "lurking" near his backyard. When he went to investigate, he found Dale near the fence of his backyard.
Dale takes issue with Ford's mention of the neighbour. "He blamed his neighbour. He used the words 'lurking' and 'leering'" Dale complained.
"I have no issue personally with Daniel Dale," said Ford, offering to apologize to Dale in person. He did go on to say he did have an issue with Dale's employer, the Toronto Star. Ford faults the paper for putting him and the reporter in the position he was in.
Dale has denounced Ford's account of their encounter as "categorically false."
“I need him to specifically retract the false claim that I was ever in his backyard,” Dale told CBC News on Tuesday.
Dale added he also wants Ford to retract his statements that he took pictures of Ford’s children, and that he had taken pictures of Ford’s property while standing atop cinder blocks.
Dale said it is not too late to prevent the matter from going to court.
“I think the mayor is perfectly capable of improving his apology,” he said.
“I was heartened that he made some sort of effort today, even though I think it was clearly unsatisfactory.”
There has yet to be a reply from Vision TV, which also received notice of a libel claim.
A difficult year
The lawsuit is just the latest challenge Ford has faced during an extraordinary year at city hall.
Earlier this year, the Star and the U.S.-based gossip website Gawker both reported that someone had been offering to sell a video that showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
Ford denied both the video’s existence and using crack cocaine — though his denials did nothing to quell interest in the story from media around the world.
Gawker even launched a fundraising campaign in an attempt to obtain the video, but abandoned the effort after losing contact with the seller.
On the last day of October, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair publicly revealed that his investigators had obtained a video file from a hard drive that was consistent with what the media had reported. Within days, Ford publicly admitted to having smoked crack cocaine.
The mayor’s drug-use admission made headlines around the world and became fodder for late-night comedians in the U.S.
But the crack-use admission was not the only thing that Ford admitted in November. He also acknowledged drinking to excess at times and to buying illegal drugs while serving as mayor.
During the same month, Ford also found himself answering questions about a bizarre video that surfaced showing him ranting and swearing. The Star paid to obtain the video, which it then published on its website.
In the wake of Ford's many apologies and admissions, council moved to strip the mayor of a number of powers. The mayor compared council's efforts to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.
Ford has been the mayor of Toronto for the past three years. He has vowed to run for re-election next year.
The 44-year-old father of two was previously a city councillor before he made a successful run for mayor in 2010.
Throughout his time as mayor, Ford has been at the centre of a number of controversies, including a conflict-of-interest challenge that nearly forced him from office and a defamation lawsuit that was eventually dismissed.
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