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An open letter to Jimmy Kimmel regarding his time with Rob Ford

(Image: Jimmy Kimmel Live!/Screenshot)

(Image: Jimmy Kimmel Live!/Screenshot)

Toronto is still deciding what to think about Rob Ford’s Monday-night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Here, Jon Sufrin writes an open letter to the late-night host.

Dear Mr. Kimmel,

Thank you for owning Toronto mayor Rob Ford on your show last night. We thought maybe you’d go soft on him, like pretty much everyone else on television has, but you didn’t.

It’s easy to forget that in addition to being joke fodder, the mayor is also a serious problem for Toronto. You dealt with that right away. When Ford tried to pull his whole “maybe you’re perfect” tactic, you shut him down immediately. You even called him out on his tendency to fudge numbers. And somehow, you managed to address his perceived homophobia and his fashion sense at the same time (“Do you think if you had more gay friends you would not wear that tie?”).

Thank you for forcing him to stand in front of millions of people and bear witness to his own buffoonery. It was awkward in the best kind of way. We’re not sure that you needed to replay all of those moments—his botched football hike is irrelevant at this point, and it’s probably a little cheap to revisit—but it was satisfying to watch him claim that he couldn’t remember who he was threatening during his inebriated death rant. We’ve seen our mayor’s face go red plenty of times, but you had him at magenta.

You did throw out a lot of low blows. That little trap you set up for him, documenting whether he’d eat his veggies or his dessert backstage, was unnecessary. Fat jokes are cheap. And you probably didn’t need to juxtapose bad photos of our mayor with nice photos of yours—it came off as vitriolic, and it distracted from the real issues. Ford supporters will probably latch onto that as further proof that he’s a somehow a victim in all of this, but your heart-to-heart with him at the end of the interview, when you encouraged him to seek help, was endearing, and it balanced out some of your cheap shots.

We’re not sure what the lasting political effects of the interview will be. It will probably benefit Ford in the long run, like everything seems to do. But for a few moments, Rob Ford—the juvenile football jock who bullies everyone—got bullied himself. In the final tally, you did good, Mr. Kimmel. Now if only we could find a TV personality in our own country who could stand up to the guy.

  • psnp

    I wish people would stop using the Jimmy Kimmel interview to criticize Canadian media. For the most part, they do the best they can with a politician who refuses to answer their questions.

  • NYCBoy2305

    Well stated.

  • flavourcountry

    Most of the time, the Mayor has an elevator to dash into or a wife to throw to the wolves, here. Really, it just involves making him sit & be accountable, and he’s been good until now not to do that.

  • Don Tapscott

    “There were three other of other flaws Jimmy. 1. You said Mayor Ford seems like a nice man with a good relationship with his brother. Neither are nice men. They are nasty bullies who hang out with criminal elements who are the scum and scourge of our city. As for their relationship its essence is that these two are a dangerous team

    2. Ford indicated that his personal life is not a topic for voters. Unfortunately we need public officials who are held to a higher standard. A Mayor should act as someone who our children can look up to.

    3. You ended the interview by saying that Ford is a “wonderful mayor” leading to a final ovation. I’m sure you meant this in an ironic way but many will miss your subtleness. He may be wonderful for comedians but he is clearly the worst and most vile mayor in modern history.”

  • wolfshades

    The fact that both Fords took that “wonderful mayor” comment at face value, instead of understanding it for the dig that it was (all buffoon politicians are like gold to comedians like Kimmel), is priceless.

  • Don Tapscott

    Indeed. But I worry that it’s not just the Fords that took the comment seriously.

  • Mark Ryan

    We need good interviewers like Jeremy Paxman in Canada. He called Conrad Black a crook to his face. He would make Rob Ford cry.

  • Tony Watches TV

    I didn’t get at all that the juxtaposition of Ford to L.A.’s mayor was a cheap shot. It wasn’t even negative. Kimmel was fair to him, but he also displayed a certain star-struck quality in hosting his favourite muse. His quip about throwing the candy canes to kids like he was feeding pigeons was priceless, and evidence of a warmer opinion of him than he gets back home. There is more than enough hatred for Rob Ford going around. I choose to see the humour in it, and Jimmy Kimmel’s fascination with Ford shows the lighter and funnier side of a story that casts Torontonians as humourless more often than they think.

  • Tony Watches TV

    I should add, I’m aware of the darker and more serious side of Ford’s mayoralty, just that this fiasco is not entirely without charm, and it’s okay to take a break from feeling indignant all the time.

  • Savannah

    Kimmel’s fascination with Ford stems from Ford’s idiotic, outrageous and illegal behaviour and his disbelief that anyone would have the gall to justify it instead of accepting responsibility and seeking help.

  • Savannah

    But even when given the opportunity for a one-on-one chat they’ve abdicated their responsibility to ask the tough questions and push back on the lies. Peter Mansbridge’s soft-ball nonsense comes to mind immediately.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Perhaps partially, but I refer again to the candy cane video. This is a mayor who, among other things, is capable of eliciting laughter that isn’t pure mockery. People are not wrong to laugh with him at times, and I think Jimmy Kimmel is a mixture of the two. Ford gives the impression to many people of being a nice person simply because he comes off that way. I agree he has his darker side, but I’ve come to resent the notion that failure to see Ford in 100% negative light all of the time is some kind of mental illness, not that you were implying that.

  • Savannah

    The candy cane thing was indeed complete mockery – he was throwing candy canes to children like he was feeding the birds and Kimmel was gobsmacked by the insensitivity and complete lack of sense Ford showed in doing so. His initial response to the video (he showed it months ago) was one of complete incredulity – he simply can’t believe this yahoo keeps stumbling forward, without a notion that he’s the object of ridicule.

    Kimmel’s interest in Ford is purely from a ‘you gotta be kidding me’ POV.

  • Tony Watches TV

    I agree to disagree. Throwing candy to children at Christmas, even in that manner, is hardly a condemnable act. It reminds me, actually, of when Stephen Harper shook his son’s hand on his first day of school, and the media lamented with horror how the man is so cold and merciless he can’t even hug his own son. Sure, that, or he didn’t want to embarrass him. Or, he’ll see him in a few hours. Or, many other things that come from a moment’s thought. When we dislike someone from the start, it’s easy to assign malice to very benign activities.

    Assuming you don’t know Jimmy Kimmel personally, we can both take what we will from his bit. I just didn’t get that from him. Divorced from the angry, angry, angry politics of Toronto, many of Rob Ford’s moments are quite funny. He’s just a comedian who recognizes that, as well as the need to be fair as well, and address that he is still a man who needs help. I thought the interview was refreshing.

  • switcherdawna

    Just because Kimmel showed they wolfed down the sweet stuff instead of the veggies didn’t say as much about his weight as much as their inability to know what is good for them.

  • Fred


  • iSkyscraper

    The only thing Kimmel couldn’t do, as an LA-based television host, was call Ford out on lies like “inherited a mess” or “saved a billion dollars” or “built subways”. Those issues were too nuanced and local for a studio audience on another coast to rebut.

    But you are right, he was not as soft as had been feared.

    Now if only one of the Daily Show fake correspondents could get to Ford. It would be shooting fish in a barrel.

  • iSkyscraper

    For the City Hall reporters, that’s true. Ford runs from them and simply won’t answer questions. But Mansbridge tanked it and will never, ever be forgiven.

  • iSkyscraper

    Will be fun to see him run from debates during election season. I half expect him to simply not attend any of them.

  • iSkyscraper

    Nope, you’re wrong. The candy canes but was cold, brutal mockery and Ford’s appeal to Americans lies purely in his unbelievable buffoonery.

  • iSkyscraper

    I’ll enjoy that break when Ford is gone and the risk of further damage to the city (transportation, budgeting, staffing, development, etc.) is gone. His incompetence is not a laughing matter.

  • Bill Lem

    The unfortunate thing is that he garners all this publicity to repeat his simple message that he will save the taxpayers money and he goes to work each day to work for the taxpayer. Tell a lie often enough and some people will believe it.

    Saving money is an admirable goal. We are taught this from a very young age. However, people are also very demanding of government and the services they provide. Real and perceived. There must be discussion on how to spend wisely and look at ways of raising revenue for the benefit of all. A bully does not listen
    and therefore not open to discussion.

    Does Rob Ford go to work each day? Is answering phone calls really the job of the mayor? There is a 311 number to help people answer questions or direct them appropriately. This service frees up the mayor’s time to reflect and provide a vision and leadership. Hmmm. Other than answering the phone what does Rob Ford do all day? He is no longer coaching football. He says that he is successful businessman. There is little or no evidence of what he actually did at the family business. Maybe he answered the phone.

    We live in a democratic society. It provides the opportunity for people to come forward to stand for election. To air ideas and face the electorate. The rule of a democratic vote is that whoever gets the most votes wins. Here is the flaw. Vote split. My fear is that if someone tells a lie often and enough people will believe him he wins.

  • Ken Raymond

    Actually the comparison between Rob Ford and Eric Garcetti was the brilliance of the Kimmel / Ford episode. It illustrated clearly the populism of Rob Ford as an “anti-politician” and showed him as more in touch with his electorate than the polished clones that we “expect” our politicians to be. It was subtle disdain for the status quo and a deft calling out of politicians who have lost touch with those they actually represent. This has been lost in the bluster of coverage re the Ford piece and what Rob Ford rode all the way to the Mayor’s office. Couple that with Kimmel’s calling out Ford to seek help as it would stand as a role model for others struggling with addiction themselves and what Ford needs took this well beyond what most are taking from the interview. He justifiably lampooned Ford whilst painting him as a sympathetic character that despite his flaws bares himself as someone who we’d love to represent us if only he’d not be such a flawed ass. Great work by Kimmel and time to drop the curtain on Ford.

  • Don Tapscott

    The problem of vote splitting will get resolved by provincial legislation (50 percent required) but not in time for the next election.

    I’m continuing this discussion on twitter @dtapscott

    Also this Rosie nails the whole Kimmel fiasco in this sweet piece from today’s Star.

  • Chris

    Has nobody been to the Santa Claus Parade, the Easter Parade, or any parade for that matter? That’s what they do, they walk down the street throwing candy at the kids along the sidelines…..I really don’t think the kids have a problem with that. I’m not suggesting that I like Ford, btw, I’m just suggesting that whole part is irrelevant.

  • leslie jenkins

    People are forgetting that this is a TV Show and that the purpose of them inviting the Mayor to the show was for it’s rating jump that it would bring by the Mayor’s own actions. The Mayor did not have to attend, it was an invite. I thought the show embarrassing as a Canadian but I also thought the host went pretty easy on him. As for the fat jokes, if they offend the Mayor that much maybe he should do something about his weight but choosing to be obese is just more fodder for the comics. It is life folks.

  • lherman79

    great point…i like to say that the mayor shouldn’t be concerned with getting “a” pothole fixed. he should be concerned with making sure the roads are in good repair in general.

  • Short Stop

    The Coup De Grace for Fords career came from a late night comedian, how fitting.

  • psnp

    Fair point.

  • psnp

    Yes. Mansbridge did not do a good job.

  • Savannah

    “It reminds me, actually, of when Stephen Harper shook his son’s hand on his first day of school, and the media lamented with horror how the man is so cold and merciless he can’t even hug his own son.”

    Well I mean, come on! You formally shake your kid’s hand on his first day of school? Please.

  • Chucks

    why are we just so carried away by the press view? i think a high sense of politic is running through, even in the press.

    If you ask me, i will say that i have decided to open my mind and read between lines.
    I see Mayor Ford as a mayor who has brought government closer to the people.
    The Mayor of Toronto has proved to me that he is not the Mayor of a particular class, color etc of people, he has related with the upper class and the lower class, he has also related with does that does not do drugs and does that are suspected might be doing drugs, he is expected to be the Mayor of everybody.

    I wonder why he has been so criticized for speaking partua, to me, it simply passes a message, “everybody can be a Mayor” if we live right, respect the law and set our priority right.

    One of the reason why i think Mayor Ford is serving Toronto rightly is because he has seen enough. I see him as someone who has experience the street life and the corporate life which shows in some of his attitude. i tell you the truth if you don’t experience how hard the street is, you can govern them rightly and take them off the street to the corporate world.

    I believe in Mayor Rob Ford cause he is delivering, because he is not too rigid and because he is ready to a carry everybody along. He knows how hard it is for the low income earners to pay tax, and he has made it low for them, which has a multiplier effect on Toronto and its standard of living.

    Jobs has been created and the economy is stable. this shows a verse sense of management and government.

  • selonmoi

    Jobs have been created? The unemployment rate has gone UP on Mayor Ford’s watch. More specifically, it was going down, until a few months ago when the crack scandal broke wide open and Toronto became an international laughing stock.

    Coincidence? Maybe, but if you were a CEO, would you want to invest in a place that elected that guy?

  • Alan Edgar

    I found the entire thing an embarrassment from start to finish. Not only are people laughing at Ford but also at Toronto, Ontario and Canada. This man has a lot to answer for.

  • Scottdaryle

    Well Chucks, thanks for taking the time to post your opinion. It is important for all to understand that the position of city mayor is not the exclusive right of the rich and privileged. However this sentence in your piece is problematic:

    ” I wonder why he has been so criticized for speaking partua, to me, it
    simply passes a message, “everybody can be a Mayor” if we live right,
    respect the law and set our priority right.”

    “live right, respect the law and set our priority right.” Do you honestly believe Rob and Doug Ford have done so? It is impossible to think they have in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Our society needs its adult voting members to possess a certain basic moral and ethical standard for its public servants. There is nothing wrong with liking a fellow such as Rob Ford if he is your neighbour. But supporting a politician such as he as the next mayor of the largest city in Canada? Please.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Nope, you’re wrong. Americans are not actually strangers to buffoonish politicians, and when you factor in their attitude toward Canada, this is pure incredulous comedy. I love how Toronto took to the internet to sour people’s positive opinions of a troubled human being. Not everyone is as unpleasant as you.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Okay, so should he have kissed him on the lips in front of the country? This reply does not make sense.

  • Tony Watches TV

    I apologize for calling you unpleasant. Uncalled for, sorry.

  • Tony Watches TV

    I don’t agree with everything you said, but I appreciate you being positive. I haven’t yet read the indignant feast of the people who responded to you, but I’m sure it’s incredibly clever.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Very well said.

  • Tony Watches TV

    80% of Samantha Bee’s schtick is saying “Wellllll Jon”. They would have massacred it.

  • Tony Watches TV

    If you’ve bore witness to the reception of Ford from Day One, you might agree that yes, it is. Toronto deserves worse, if anything.

  • iSkyscraper

    Given that I’m the one living in the US for the last 14 years I’ll take my interpretations of Americans over yours.

    And you can’t sour something that was already stinking:

  • iSkyscraper

    Low-IQ leaders with bully pulpits are cute until they start affecting infrastructure (transit, the Gardiner, bike lanes, etc.) that will long outlive their time in office.
    It’s not funny, no matter how you try to spin it. Why have you tribally lashed yourself to Ford, one wonders?

  • iSkyscraper

    Spinning so hard your vision must be blurring. Sorry, but in a factual, objective sense the above is delusional.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Humour is subjective. I’m not interested in you finding something funny. Go ahead and don’t find it funny. I’ve not ‘tribally latched’ myself to anything.

  • Chucks

    I thank everybody who has constructively criticized my argument.

    like i understood in “Scottdaryle’s” comment it is my opinion.
    I don’t need a man with 2000 pages of resume to take the job, what i need is a man that can deliver.
    they’ve done so many things to make him resign (politics), and after each accusation he still stands, why would i not think this is simply and act of victimization.
    Tell me one politician that has an out-right clean record. it could seem so if you’r favored by the press.

    i will reserve some comments because this is a public place.
    thank you.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Those articles do nothing to help your point, I’m sorry. If you’d like for me to elaborate on why, then I will.

    It’s not a competition over who understands Americans more, though I do have plenty of family in the U.S., as well as television and internet, the country in question being America, whose media dominates our own. For the record, I like Americans.

    My point was simply that Jimmy Kimmel seems to have a soft spot for a man who, despite his guilty deeds, is still a human being and very beleaguered, but it’s my take on it, and you’re welcome to have your own. I enjoyed the interview.

    Torontonians have mistakenly tied their own quality to his failings. Whatever he does tomorrow will do nothing to change the fact that an astounding number of Torontonians possess such an elitism and unpleasantness that they are rendered utterly unsympathetic to people. Trust me, I’ve been living here for more than 14 years.

  • iSkyscraper

    Ok, I agree with that — Kimmel is clearly warm towards Ford, with an air of bemusement because as much as he enjoys poking fun at him he finds him interesting and just a fascinating human specimen. And of course if treated gently enough Ford might come back on the show. He’s playing the long game.

    Which is why some were disappointed. I was hoping for a total beatdown, which Ford richly deserves, but was never going to happen.

    The problem with your comments is that you start out with a perfectly valid observation but then drift into “an astounding number of Torontonians possess such an elitism and unpleasantness that they are rendered utterly unsympathetic to people”. Dislike of Ford is not about being elitist or unpleasant. It is about being furious that a truly incompetent man with childish ideas, plenty of hatred (remember “commie pinkos?”) and a complete inability to learn from or work with others ended up trying to foist his terrible policies upon a city that thought they had simply elected a fiscal caretaker.

    I grew up in Toronto in the era of The City that Works and progressive conservatism, not a city that said “no” to everything and formed policy based on Tea Party ideology and selfishness cloaked under false claims of gravy-cutting and looking out for all.

    The lies, the lies, the lies — -it’s too much.
    So when a Fordist starts trying to spin too hard and start playing the “you’re all haters, Ford is a victim” card, people like me smell BS and start calling you out on it. It’s not acceptable, the lies have to stop. Ford is disliked for legitimate and ample reasons that he himself was wholly responsible for creating. So while it’s cute that he is now notorious enough to pull more invites than Lindsay Lohan it won’t stop me from being relentless in wanting him made accountable and sent packing.

  • Tony Watches TV

    The only argument I take with that is labeling me a ‘Fordist’. Beyond that, it’s a very sensible response, and I agree. I understand I may not be succeeding in adding to it, but that’s my attempt, not to argue with facts. I’m not campaigning for him.

    There is a difference between taking issue with his actions and performance – facts – as you are doing, and engaging in smarmy elitism from day one, as a lot of Toronto has done. Unfortunately in this situation, the latter was really never dealt with accordingly, and now the two often walk hand in hand. It is okay to say that Rob Ford has been a disastrous mayor. It’s not okay to mock the suburbanites who voted for him and did not vote for a drug scandal.

    That is what we are dealing with. Toronto is fighting Rob Ford by actively feeding the beast that brought him there. Ford, I should say, is a person who is fairly maligned as well as being unfairly maligned. If you allow that the man is not a Nazi war criminal, then you would probably concede that he does possess some good qualities, and Toronto could save itself a few miles worth of net bandwidth by ceasing to argue that point. I do remember the hate, and I also remember the hate heaped on him for being overweight by people in between breaths of calling themselves socially progressive. Those people would later laugh that the only people voting for Ford were poor and less educated. Remember the NOW! magazine with Ford in a diaper, a month into his term? I submit that the nastiness that has been directed at him for years does not all come from sincere civic worry, and recommend strongly that people against the reelection of Rob Ford divorce themselves from these sort of people. They don’t help your cause, and it frustrates me to no end that they take his scandal as some sort of vindication of their shallow hypocrisy of heart.

  • iSkyscraper

    It’s the unfounded faith in the “delivery” that makes people mock your words. Out. to. lunch. Never mind the crack thing, Ford is just a bad mayor who lies about his accomplishments and delivers very little.

    Of course many politicians have character flaws and issues. When they rise to the level of Ford’s, in an office as high as his, they resign.

  • iSkyscraper

    I’m halfway with you, but I can’t forgive the wilful suspension of disbelief that Ford started his term all lilly-white and was set upon by the big, bad liberal machine. A month into his term Ford had already outright insulted many, many people over his previous decade as a councillor (we all know his greatest-hits quotes) while voting nonsensically against pretty much everything. His whole phantom campaign of bringing in the consultants and searching for the gravy train, the marathon town hall meetings over nothing, the library war — I mean, come on. He came in throwing out both dirt and really stupid ideas and it would have been irresponsible for the media not to have noticed.

    Just for a moment, pretend Tory had been elected mayor in 2010. Would ANY of the media circus resulted as it did for Ford? Of course not. Tory would not have tried to buy parkland behind his house, or boycotted the Star, or refused to release his schedule, or said things like “let’s throw all the streetcars into Lake Ontario”. No one invented that stuff but Ford.

    As for the fat jokes, yes, any unduly large politician is going to run into those but look at Chris Christie. Far fewer fat jokes were made about him because, oh I don’t know, maybe he didn’t hold a Governubial

  • Tony Watches TV

    John Tory’s 2007 election campaign against Dalton McGuinty, and the faith-based school funding issue, is perhaps the strongest indictment against the Toronto Star as a respectable news and editorial source, at least in my adult life. The argument that John Tory would not be as surrounded by circus as Ford (Pre-) is generous, in my opinion. They were nasty to Tory as well. They will probably continue to be nasty to him.

  • Tony Watches TV

    It gives John Tory a parachute to land on solid ground, hide behind bushes and prepare his position of not being a complete douchebag.

  • Tony Watches TV

    Your response is valid, but I don’t have the energy other than to ask that you acknowledge the complete hatred for John Tory in this city, because it is ever bit as silly as it sounds.

  • iSkyscraper

    Think more like Jason Jones or Aasif Mandvi.

  • iSkyscraper

    From a Jan 2008 Star editorial:

    “While the Star endorsed the Liberals in the election, we firmly believe Ontario needs devoted and compassionate politicians like Tory.

    Tory, a former businessman, has an admirable track record in the voluntary sector. And throughout his failed Toronto mayoralty bid in 2003 and his time in provincial politics, he has shown himself to be genuinely committed to public service.

    Unfortunately, those qualities are in glaringly short supply in all levels of politics. Conservative delegates should keep that in mind when they gather next month to decide Tory’s future.”

    Sure, political biases exist and the Star and other liberal media would have been opposed to many things Tory would have done, but the circus came to town because Rob Ford skipped out on work to coach football, because Rob Ford used resources for Deco and football teams, because Rob Ford defied the integrity commissioner, because Rob Ford drove while reading, because Rob Ford hid his schedule and was only available to the press during weekly Weigh-Ins… Come on, you’re being completely unrealistic here.

    Ford was and remains an incompetent oaf who has rightly been called out for his failings. The Star is not to blame here.

  • Vivaforever

    He could have tried the veggies.

  • Tony Watches TV

    I understand this is a days-old argument, but I should repeat once again that I’m neither giving Ford a free pass, nor am I suggesting the Star is to blame for him. It was an entirely separate point that had nothing to do with Ford. (Though perhaps saying the circus would be similar around Tory was very poorly put.) Using Ford’s mishaps as ammunition against separate thoughts is one reason the dialogue in Toronto is so frustrating.

    Whatever the Star’s opinion of Tory in 2008, it has nothing to do with what happened in 2007 and their appalling and scorn-worthy sin of omission in reporting the relevant facts.

    On a similar note: Rob Ford did not enter politics lily-white, as you mentioned, but neither were the politics of Toronto he entered into. Toronto has its own, unique faults, and Rob Ford has shown a singular, entertaining, and often unwitting talent for juxtaposing them, sometimes hilariously, alongside his own. Many people like myself feel this way who also respect the facts, and refuse to be drawn into what we see as a less pluralistic view.

    I think we’re in agree to disagree territory, and that’s fine. You’re more knowledgeable than myself on a lot of these specifics, and have been informative.

  • Great Hall Academy