Toronto Mayor’s Reality Show

 Toronto Mayors Reality Show

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

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.

The Unraveling of Rob Ford

 The Unraveling of Rob Ford

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto.

Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, would never be considered a staid politician. But his public confession of drug use was bizarre even by his own lofty standards.

In May, video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine was shown to certain journalists – then disappeared. Ford said it wasn’t him. With his repeated denials and the video missing, the story began to fade. Last week, however, Toronto police said the same video was recovered on a laptop seized in a drug raid.

In what will go down as one of the most jaw-dropping political moments ever, Ford this week stepped off a City Hall elevator into a scrum of reporters and, apparently off-the-cuff, admitted he did indeed smoke crack. “When?” the astounded press corps asks. “Probably in one of my drunken stupors… a year ago,” he responds. A few hours later, a flushed and gulping Ford held a formal press conference in which he repeated his admission, asked for forgiveness, said he won’t do it again and refused to resign.

Shocking, perhaps, but not surprising. Ford is a colorful character with a loyal following. Indeed, after the video resurfaced, his approval ratings actually climbed. But even relaxed Canadians have a breaking point. The specter of a crack-smoking clown as mayor may be a tolerance too high for most Torontonians.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Rob Ford. The flamboyant mayor may have finally cracked up.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: You can be your own worst enemy, and that’s why it pays to get outside advice. Ford no doubt breathed more than one sigh of relief after that pesky video disappeared. When it turned up again, he panicked and wound up blurting out his complicity in the worst possible way. But Ford was too close to the issue. Had he consulted with crisis management pros, they could have helped him orchestrate a more strategic and potentially career-saving way of confirming his participation. After all, as Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry proved, crack isn’t so whack that you can’t come back.

To see the video, click here.