Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ford's transgressions target of opinions, wisecracks

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EVEN Rob Ford can't deny this -- he's big news.

From Twitter to television, the Toronto mayor's crack-cocaine confession dominated the international headlines -- and punchlines.

"Toronto Mayor admits to smoking crack" cried a headline on the BBC's front page.

The unfolding drug scandal has been a particular favourite with U.S. media, with some observers comparing the Ford affair to the case of former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry, who was busted smoking crack cocaine by an FBI sting in 1990.

Even some serious American news outlets have taken a more lighthearted tone in covering the controversy.

"It's not news when it's in other cities... it's comedy," said Peter Graefe, a political science professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

A story posted on the Washington Post's website highlighted the vastly different reactions stirred by the Ford and Barry scandals.

"It's a different world now than it was in 1990. Between social media and 24-hour news networks, a white Canadian mayor admitting that he uses drugs is looked at as a source of comedy," Clinton Yates wrote in the piece. "In those days, it was a reason to vilify a majority-black city for a drug epidemic that took countless lives."

Ford's name was trending on Twitter for much of Tuesday, with some weighing in from south of the border. "Rob Ford's crack habit is the only thing I know about Canadian politics. I wonder if I'm alone in that. (Probably not.)," read a tweet from a New York account.

Many admitted they couldn't turn away from the drama playing out at city hall.

"Glued to Rob Ford coverage this afternoon. So much for the reading I was going to do. Someone needs to convince him to get help," read one tweet.

Some of Ford's supporters defended him online, saying he's been picked on by police and media alike.

"I love Rob Ford; man you do your thing, we've all used illicit drugs at some point. Don't let the haters bring you down," said another.

Ford has also been a recurring target for late-night talk shows such as The Daily Show, which poked fun at Ford as recently as Monday night.

Jay Leno on The Tonight Show wondered why Ford's popularity rose in an opinion poll after the police announced they had video of Ford smoking a crack pipe. "Really? The man went up five points? ... How many crackheads are in Toronto?"

Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show (after a segment called Guess Who's the Alleged Crackhead): "The mayor faces re-election next year, and I guess police were tipped off when they heard his slogan: "Get Toronto back on track, vote for the guy who likes to smoke crack."

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2013 A10

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