Mayor Rob Ford has been served papers indicating a lawsuit is being launched against him by Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale.
The papers are a 'libel notice' which, according to lawyers, is a prerequisite to a statement of claim in a lawsuit.
Vision TV will also be sued, because they aired the interview twice.
The suit surrounds the comments made in an interview between Mayor Ford and Conrad Black that aired on Zoomer TV on Monday.
In that interview, Ford had referenced the case where Dale was reportedly near the backyard of the Mayor, and Ford claims he was taking pictures.
"When a guy is taking pictures of little kids... I don't want to say that word... but you start thinking, what's this all about?"
Mayor Ford was asked about the comments on Tuesday, the day after the interview aired, but refused to retract them.
The Toronto Star says they are standing behind their reporter, and paying all of his legal bills.
Daniel Dale posted the following statement on the Toronto Star website:
Goodness. As the mayor likes to say: enough’s enough.
I am serving Rob Ford today with a libel notice, the first step in the process of pursuing a defamation lawsuit. I am also serving Vision TV, which twice broadcast Ford’s vile and defamatory remarks to Conrad Black even though their interview was filmed days before it aired.
It had become clear to me that, if I had done nothing, the mayor would make his smears some sort of political talking point. His comments to Black were no one-time slip; they seemed to be the first shots in a bewildering campaign against my good name. At a Tuesday news conference, he pointedly said he stands by “every word.” Today, he repeated many of his false claims on American radio.
No matter how much stress a legal battle might add to my personal and professional life, it is, simply, now necessary.
As my libel notice says, I’m asking Ford to immediately retract the false insinuation that I am a pedophile and all of his false statements about my conduct on May 2, 2012. I’m also asking Ford and Vision owner ZoomerMedia to apologize immediately “publicly, abjectly, unreservedly and completely.”
If Ford does not do so, we’ll see if he is willing to repeat his lies under penalty of perjury.
I did not want to do this. In fact, I so strongly did not want to do this that I had a whole announcement written about why I was going to take the high road and give Ford a pass for his defamation against me. I was going to make the announcement this morning.
I didn’t want to complicate my happy life. I’m a non-confrontational guy, and I just wanted to write articles and go home. I didn’t want to be goaded into a legal battle that could last a long time. The mayor very much deserved to be sued, I knew, but I thought I could do more good for the city by challenging him at city hall on policy than challenging him about me in a courtroom.
Ford’s persistence changed my mind.
I planned to say in my announcement that I would reconsider my decision if the mayor were to repeat his lies in the future. I woke up this morning to learn that he is already repeating them. On a Washington, D.C. sports radio show, he falsely said:
- I was “looking over (his) fence taking pictures.” Never happened.
- I was “taking pictures in the backyard,” Never happened; if it were true, police Det. Tricia Johnston told me, I would have been charged with a crime.
- “He got caught. I got his phone. I got his camera. I had everything.” I had no camera, just a phone with a camera function. At my invitation, Det. Johnston went through the phone and found no pictures whatsoever from that night.
- “He’s saying he wasn’t taking pictures, well, what are you doing in my backyard on cinderblocks ...” I never stood on anything but the grass of a public park, never even saw these blocks, was never in the backyard. I was on public land researching a public interest story about the mayor’s unusual application to buy public land.
Crucially, Ford added this: “When you’ve got young kids, that freaked me right out.” This isn’t quite as egregious as the comment he made to Black, but it brought renewed attention to his malicious and defamatory insinuation to Black that I have some sort of predatory interest in young children — that I am a pedophile.
I can’t tolerate it. I won’t tolerate it.
With the full support of the Star, I will stay on the city hall beat while pursuing this action. No reasonable person questioned the appropriateness of me continuing to cover Ford after he insinuated I was a pedophile, or after he confronted me menacingly and called police on me for standing in a park; my reporting will be no more ethically compromised by my effort to hold him to account for this insinuation about the incident than it was by the incident or the insinuation itself.
If a municipal politician had, hypothetically, clubbed me with a two-by-four, I told the police about it, and they charged him, I don’t think anyone could fairly argue that I needed to give up my job — I would simply be responding calmly and reasonably to unprompted aggression. Similarly, I don’t need to give up my job because I am responding calmly and reasonably to the mayor’s attempt to take a two-by-four to my reputation.
I can easily imagine the mayor and his brother attempting to turn the tables on the Star and calling for me to take a leave of absence, as councillors and much of the media had called for the mayor to do. I can easily imagine them accusing me of bias.
They will be wrong. I can, and will, continue to cover them with the utmost professionalism. I’m an exceptionally even-keeled person, and I just don’t want to think about this all the time as I go about doing the work I love. I will not let this affect my job. I will not be bullied off of my beat.
I can easily imagine the mayor and his brother alleging that this is another example of a Toronto Star vendetta against them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Star’s most senior leaders made it clear to me from the start that this decision was entirely up to me. They were fully supportive after I emailed them last night to tell them I was going to let the matter drop.
One final word. Dozens of people, including people personally harmed by pedophilia, have offered me a total of thousands of dollars in donations for my legal fees. That’s remarkable.
I’m fortunate to work for an employer willing to go bat for its employees, and the Star will be covering my costs, so I’m good for cash. Perhaps all that offered money could be donated to an organization that assists victims of child abuse, and we can create some light out of all this dark nonsense? Maybe someone could ask the mayor if he would join us.
I donated last night to Boost, which recently opened a pioneering victims’ centre. There are other worthy organizations. Let's elevate the conversation the mayor wants to stay in the mud.