Why the Rob Ford “fat fuck” video was put online

City spokesperson Brad Ross (now with the TTC) pleads with Rob Ford to give up his chase after Globe columnist John Barber.

On Tuesday, March 11, 2008, the anonymous Ceyla16 uploaded the video “Councillor Rob Ford in action” to YouTube.  Originally devoid of any contextual information, it sat there for two and a half weeks before being discovered by Toronto Life‘s short-lived Preville on Politics blog.  Two days later, it was posted here.  And then a day after that, I tracked down both its origin (the documentary Hogtown: The Politics of Policing) as well as the specifics of the argument at its centre (the details of the in camera Police Board vote on whether to renew then–Chief Julian Fantino’s contract).

In the course of my digging, I also uncovered the identity of the user who posted the clip on YouTube and emailed him to ask if there was any particular reason he put it online; at this point, my Torontoist piece had already gone up, and I was just considering adding an update.  The fellow did in fact get back to me the next day, but I never got around to appending his explanation, and then kind of forgot about it. (I also later learned that the person I referred to as “Unidentified reporter” was in fact the Star‘s Catherine Porter.)

But as the clip has not only gotten renewed play in recent months but has also inspired a sitcom, I’ve found myself wanting to tell the last little bit of the story, which in turn resurrects another long-past Ford controversy:

I posted the clip on behalf of my friend [, Hogtown director] Min Sook Lee, that was the primary reason. but I also wanted to put more out about Councillor Ford in light of his “Orientals” comment. I’m originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and find it incredibly hard to believe that a goon like Ford who tries to pass his hate off as ignorance and skirts issues when he’s under fire can be an elected official (then again the US has the ultimate in GWBush). I’ve observed that Ford has a reputation for being outrageous but it’s dangerous if that becomes accepted— especially out of an elected official, I’d like to think that in Toronto we’d have higher standards. Furthermore, after his “apology” yesterday it’s clear this guy doesn’t get it and it’s because he doesn’t think he has to be accountable and that’s scary.

So, thanks to Smitherman and Dieter D-H, everyone remembers the AIDS remarks, but who remembers the details of Ford’s “Orientals” remarks?  Raise your hands.

Rob Ford gets along with some City Hall columnists better than others.

On Wednesday, March 5, 2008, City Council was debating the perennial subject of holiday shopping.  Ford was of the opinion that the concepts of holidays and rest are a competitive disadvantage in a globalized world.  The National Post transcribed his comments thus:

Go to the Orient. Go to Hong Kong. I’ve been there. You want to see workaholics? Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life…. Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over. There’s no excuses for [them]. They’re hard, hard workers.

The Globe noted he added, “This is capitalism, ladies and gentlemen. … This is what we need.”

Mayor Miller, who wasn’t present at the time, soon after demanded Ford apologize on the floor of Council at the next meeting.  Ford refused, and insisted his remarks were intended as a compliment; he was genuinely perplexed as to why people might be offended.  Ford is not so much malicious, you see, as he is unfathomably ignorant, and seemingly lacking the capacity to possess empathy for people he has not directly met in person.

The next day, he clarified to the Star “that by ‘taking over’ he meant Asians are further advanced in business than a century ago.” But although he bristled at the suggestion of a public apology, he told the Post that same day that he was open to saying sorry to individual Asian Canadians who were hurt.

And further down in the Post‘s article (written by Kelly Grant, now the Globe‘s City Hall bureau chief) we see the genesis of his mayoral ambitions:

Yesterday, Mr. Ford showed off a stack of e-mails from supporters calling his Oriental speech harmless. Several of the messages entreated Mr. Ford to run for mayor.

“People have asked me, a ton of people have,” said the Etobicoke councillor, who earlier mused about running for the top job before his inebriated turn at the Leafs’ game in 2006.

“Now I’m definitely considering it.”

If Mr. Ford does run, speeches such as the one he made this week could hurt his chances, some councillors said.

“Anybody could run for mayor, but as long as he makes this kind of remark, his chance of getting elected mayor is very slim,” said Raymond Cho, a Scarborough councillor originally from Korea.

(These actually concerned a different incident entirely.)

But the shit really hit the fan for Ford the following week, when on March 14th, ten Asian Canadians protested outside his office by lying on the floor next to a prop sewing machine.  The group, led by Kristyn Wong-Tam — a previous president of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter — demanded a public apology.  (Wong-Tam is currently the Adam Vaughan–backed candidate in the ward 27 race to replace Kyle Rae.)

Ford wasn’t in his office that day, but by this time, he had more or less clued in that he’d done something wrong — even if he didn’t fully grasp what that was.  “I have publicly apologized to the newspapers, on the radio,” he told the Globe.  “I will publicly apologize to you if I have offended anybody by my comment.  I did not know [the word] Oriental was a racist word and I did not know [the phrase] working like a dog was a derogatory statement.”

The next Council meeting was Monday, March 31st, and came less than a week after Ford was charged with assault and uttering death threats in a dispute with his wife.  (The charges were dropped two months later.)

There were dueling petitions submitted to the City Clerk: on one side was Adam Vaughan, with 260 signatures calling for an apology from Ford.  On the other was Ford himself, with 151 of something.  The Star and Globe said he had a 151-name petition from the Asian community asking that he not apologize; the official meeting minutes, on the other hand, recorded it as “151 e-mail communications he had received from individuals, expressing their support” [PDF, page 3].

This happened.

Not only did Ford maintain that “Asian people do work very hard, and are very, very aggressive,” he also produced a No Frills flyer advertising “Oriental flavour 100% pure cornstarch.” Oh yes he did. (If I had been his adviser, I would also have suggested he brandish the sheet music for “A Hard Day’s Night,” in order to justify his use of “working like a dog.”)

Let’s go to the minutes for the subsequent comedy:

Peter Kuitenbrouwer described: “…Mr. Ford stood up and, in the manner of a schoolkid whose teacher has ordered him to say something he does not believe, he said, in a tiny voice: ‘Sorry.'”


  1. Brilliant piece!

    Thanks for keeping people refreshed, on what’s really happened – I find it impossible how easily some people like to forget such incidents, or down play them, which is equally as disturbing!

    They say…”The more you know…” – Well, knowledge is power and I’d rather face all with honesty, then be dishonest and/or allow dishonesty to occur, right before my own eye’s.

    Good job Goldsbie, really enjoyed the read!

    Wishing you all the best, 

    Dieter – Not Deiter Doneit-Honderich LMAO

  2. What does it say about Ford’s conduct that the three Asian-Canadians on city council (Minnan-Wong, Lee and Cho) voted to uphold the ruling? Nothing in Cho’s case but everything for Minnan-Wong and Lee. The latter two take pride in voting against Bussin’s rulings.

  3. I want to cherish the belief in democracy, as the other options are so poor, but when a moron like Ford has had his gaffes so publicized yet has so much support…

  4. I’m most offended by Sue Ann Levy’s tight t-shirt in that photo.

    But seriously folks…

    A year ago, Rob Ford was a clown and now he’s a serious contender. How does that happen? How does a guy with no political savvy do an end-run around everyone’s preconceptions and come out as a new person, even though he has all the same faults?? Confused? Joint the club.

    Rob Ford, who’s entire purpose seems to be antagonizing fellow councillors, entire ethnic groups, the media and AIDS sufferers is AT THE SAME TIME a leading candidate for Mayor. It’s like he’s a superhero…by day he’s a goonish, loud-mouthed, racist buffoon, but when the sun goes down he puts on his costume and becomes “ROB FORD FOR MAYOR!!” Except in this situation, his Clark Kent outfit and he super-suit are the exactly the same, yet still no one puts two and two together.

    The only way this would make sense is if Rob Ford had at one time been a moron for whom every opening of his mouth was a precursor to foot insertion, BUT now he’s been enlightened and has working “like a dog” to become involved and aware of our entire city’s diversity. If that were the case, I could understand his popularity. But let’s be honest…he hasn’t changed a but and is proving it regularly.

    So here’s my question (and it’s likely the same question asked by Ford’s doctor, ZING!)…when will Rob Ford reach critical mass and explode? It’s gotta happen sometime.


  5. I’m no Rob Ford fan, but this piece of “journalism” is way below Spacing’s standards. Are you guys going to start digging up dirt on other candidates to smear them too? I enjoy reading Spacing for thoughtful insight into issues regarding Toronto’s urban growth and political commentry. If you want to smear Ford, stick to his policies rather than his off-record comments.

    BTW, while there is no question he needs to put his foot in his mouth, I took his comment about Asians as a compliment, if poorly worded and politically incorrect, to their work ethic. In a city as diverse as Toronto, we need to lighten up a bit when discussing ethnicity and not call ‘racism’ to any mention of it. Check out Alabama in the 1950s if you want to see what real racism is…

  6. Getting tired of the various Ford attacks and the obsession of political correctness. Ford is an in-your-face person but this just reinforces that the press really isn’t giving him a fair shake. Despite how he says things I’m not so sure he is on the wrong side of every issue.

    How about we talk about where candidates stand on issues for a change? Might that be appropriate for an election?

  7. Those here who claim this post is a smear job can shake their heads; it’s a retelling of one of many incidents that is full of fact and demonstrates what a callous tool Rob Ford is. Plain and simple.

    If the newspapers and TV media were doing their jobs they’d pull up their notes and clips and showcase the unacceptable behaviour of Toronto’s most boorish councillor.

  8. A lot of cry babies whine about how inappropriate Rob Ford can be at times. But what the disbelievers can’t do is diss his message – we are in debt, council fritters away tax dollars on frivolous nonsense, and taxpayers are sick of it! Rob’s appeal is his message – if he sticks to it he’ll be our next mayor.

  9. “If you want to smear Ford, stick to his policies rather than his off-record comments.”

    Statements made by speakers at City Council meetings are — by definition — on the record. I’m not sure you understand what “off-record” means.

    “…I took his comment about Asians as a compliment, if poorly worded and politically incorrect, to their work ethic.”

    I don’t doubt for a moment that Ford intended it as a compliment. What fascinates me is his difficulty understanding how it could be interpreted as anything but.

  10. It’s kinda good that people working on Rob Ford’s campaign read spacing and take time to think about the articles. Maybe what they read will rub off on this buffoon.

  11. It’s quite clear that Toronto’s journalists have their knives out for Rob Ford, and really, you should stop sticking up for your friends over something that happened two years ago.

    I’m no friend or supporter of Rob Ford, but even I can see he fucked up and handled it gracelessly, something I personally do at least once a week. Let it go. What about the issues? There are other ones besides transit, right?

  12. Doesn’t anyone remember Mel Lastman? He too ran a successful business, was well known for his frequent gaffs and had a genuine knack for being a populist. It would seem we learned nothing from 8 terrible years of Mayor Mel. 

  13. I am blown away by what is being considered relevant in this mayoral race. We are rarely discussing policies, instead discussing personal conduct. Have you ever watched provincial parliament? Have you ever sat in the public viewing gallery? George Smitherman, has for years, acted in a disrespectful and hurtful manner to others in Provincial Parliament. How do you think he got the name Furious George? He behaved like a 9 year old bully for years, at the beck and call of our Goldman Sachs cronnie Dalton. Give me a break, we need to discuss the real issues, like the following:

    -We have 2.5 billion it debt, it needs to go, and fast.
    -We have a structural deficit, and a massive infrastructure spending backlog
    -TTC and Residential Garbage collection are both problematic, we need an open debate about whether the municipal government should even be involved in these areas, or if the market should be left to take care of it. 
    -General spending has gotten out of control, and hundreds of millions of dollars are spent unnecessarily on subsidies, services, and capital expenditures that should not be on the hands of the municipal government
    -Traffic is a serious problem. We have subsidized cars for way too long, and the imbalance needs to be corrected. 

    And much much more….

    The longer we focus on Ford’s off collar comments, the less likely we are to choose a candidate who will tackle these issues in a manner which does not just pander to special interests, but looks at the interests of all parties involved. The main thing is individual rights have to be respected. We always talk about the rights of different minorities. The most important minority is the individual, as this great city is composed of exactly that, individuals. We are all individuals, and we all deserve equal rights and respect. This article is further proof how off course we are. Its like the TMZ of the Toronto Mayoral Race

  14. For everyone who is complaining about “why aren’t you discussing the issues?” I’d like to refer you to all of our analytical coverage of this election.

    You can find all of our election posts here:

    We have over 60 articles on this election most of which cover specific election issues. And they date back to September of 2009.

    Matthew Blackett
    publisher of Spacing

  15. At least with Smitherman he a decent list of accomplishments at Queen’s Park. The Green Energy Act of Ontario is probably the most radical and forward thinking piece of green legislation in Canada.

    I’m no fan of Smitherman, but at least he can get things done. And if you look at his site he’s not just complaining about the city — something that Ford does — he is proposing pretty decent ideas that the other candidates are not.

    Ford deserves every second under the microscope — the character of an individual is paramount to the job as mayor. His litany of absurdities and boorishness are not becoming of a mayor. In my mind, he’s no different than Don Andrews, another candidate with outlandish ideas. Look him up.

  16. I find it interesting that of course Ford must apologize for characterizing all “Orientals” as slaves to capitalism — in a dialectical move that of course makes it sound like ‘sleeping beside the machine’ is somehow pleasurable and will somehow bring some kind of reward — but that there was no demand for an apology from Ford for calling for the abolition of all rest and holidays, otherwise known as the sweatshop labour of wage slavery and corporate fascism.

    Apparently capitalist slavery is OK, as long as one doesn’t discriminate by colour or race.

  17. The author (Jonathan Goldsbie) of the drivel herein referenced is sadly representative of a strong, even dominant trend in contemporary urban culture. The need for acceptance by our peers drives much of our behaviour and therefore we are inclined to submit to whatever societal norms prevail at any given point in time. Moreover, those people who presume to be among the most knowledgeable about such trends, such as journalists, feel an even greater need to adopt and cater to the tastes of the self-appointed “in crowd”. Hence, Jonathan Goldsbie has provided us with a thoroughly predictable, politically correct assessment of Rob Ford that could either have been derived from, or could serve as, a template for other so-called journalists who are bereft of objectivity and a capacity for original ideas. In this model, Ford is charicatured as the stereotypical ignorant, redneck racist of questionable intellect at best, while his supporters are cited as grounds for abandoning the democratic system.

    What commentators like Jonathan Goldsbie either overlook or choose to ignore is the fact that their simplistic assumptions regarding both Rob Ford and his supporters belie reality. Many people whom, like myself, will vote for Rob Ford will do so with the belief that whatever foibles he may have, his message is the right one at this point in Toronto’s history. Furthermore, many people actually admire Ford’s willingness to speak frankly without concern that the word police may be lurking around the next corner; this country needs more people willing to tell the PC thugs to go to Hell. Instead, we more commonly get the milquetoasts like Sandra Bussin who hide behind their telephones and deny they work for the city while PMSing all over a radio show.

    David Miller, Kyle Rae and Howard Moscoe will soon be just bad memories and I say good riddance to bad rubbish. The Ford administration will be one of the best things to happen in this city in many years.

  18. Why did the reporter call Rob a “fat fuck” ????
    Because he IS a fat fuck !!!
    Duh ……

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