Some Canadians were tweeting that last week’s Toronto city council hearings were the best reality show on television, but most aren’t laughing. Further revelations about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford‘s admitted purchase and use of illegal drugs are shocking, but not as much as his refusal to resign.
Time was any good PR advisor would have told the mayor to step down after just one of the many offenses he’s admitted to: being caught on videotape smocking crack cocaine. Being caught on videotape threatening to kill someone. His explanation for that: “I was extremely, extremely inebriated.” Telling a cadre of reporters that he had bought and used drugs. Admitting same during live televised hearings. Still, Ford clings to his mayoral seat, despite mobs of his constituents chanting “Resign!” outside his office.
With the help of PRs, politicians who have fallen from grace can construct careful comeback trails. And there is a precedent for Ford’s case. Marion Barry, the Mayor of Washington, DC, was videotaped smoking crack in 1990, served six months in prison, and was re-elected mayor in 1994. However, Ford is missing a key component of this example: in order to make a comeback, one must first go away.
THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Between a fall from grace and bouncing back, one must admit defeat. Though Marion Barry’s act of contrition – a prison sentence – was involuntary, he had it in hand to show he’d reformed. But no amount of PR can save Ford’s train wreck. He has taken the first step of saying he has some sort of rehab team on his case, but now would be the time to resign and take care of business in private. The last thing he or Toronto needs is for his recovery to become the next episode of this reality show.