Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Black takes Ford's side in lawsuit, blasts Star

Ex-mogul calls newspaper a 'menace to democracy'

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TORONTO -- A libel notice against Rob Ford has prompted Conrad Black to come to the Toronto mayor's defence, accusing Canada's largest newspaper of being a "menace to democracy."

The former media mogul did an interview with Ford on Vision TV last Monday, which led to Star reporter Daniel Dale serving a legal notice to the mayor.

Dale and the Star contend Ford's comments during the interview about an incident last year amounted to accusing him of being a pedophile.

Ford has since said he stands by his comments about a confrontation he had with Dale outside his home.

Dale has said the legal action is his own, but Black used a National Post column to accuse the Star of dragging what he calls its prolonged effort to crucify Ford into the courts.

Black writes that Ford's comments about Dale are a sideshow to what he calls the Star's campaign of "rabid hostility" against the mayor.

"Those who have problems with the mayor's style (and there is plenty of room for such concerns) can wait for the 2014 election," writes Black in the column published Saturday.

"The voters control this city, not the Toronto Star. And the attempt to end-run the electoral system is dishonest and a menace to democracy."

Michael Cooke, the Toronto Star's editor whom Black referred to in his column as "my former protege," expressed surprise over Black's diatribe.

"My primary concern is the attack on our reporter, though it is increasingly odd that a man as brilliant as Conrad Black would plant his flag on Mount Ford and do battle from there," Cooke told The Canadian Press in an email.

Black also takes issue with the claim by Dale and the Star that Ford was insinuating pedophilia, saying his own take on Ford's comments was the mayor was worried about the safety of his children until he saw that Dale was a journalist, but there was no thought the reporter was a pedophile.

"The notion that the mayor had insinuated that Dale was a pervert was a confection uniquely of his colleagues at the Star, and he has his colleagues to thank for whatever stigmatization he feels he has suffered," said Black.

Dale and the Star have said the reporter was near Ford's home researching a story about an adjacent parcel of public land the mayor wanted to purchase.

Ford confronted Dale and accused him of taking pictures of his home, which the Star reporter denied and police later confirmed had not happened.

Dale has said he was prepared to let Ford's comments on Black's Vision show, Zoomer, go, but the mayor later repeated them in an interview with a U.S. media outlet.

Someone started a campaign on the crowdfunding site indiegogo to raise money to cover Ford's legal costs. The campaign set a target of $50,000 but had only raised $931 as of Saturday evening.

Black says he doesn't minimize Ford's mistakes, but notes police have never charged him with a crime, so there is no reason the mayor should resign. He predicted Ford will finish his term.

"The Star's attempted coup is collapsing," writes Black, who is no stranger to controversy, having served nearly five years in U.S. prison for fraud and obstruction of justice.

"In the hands of its present and recent leadership, it has atrophied and is now like a decrepit Jurassic monster, with failing sight and palsied limb that yet comes snorting out of the undergrowth occasionally in pursuit of some misconceived or conjured cause."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2013 A6

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