Jimmy Kimmel isn’t a journalist; he’s a host. He could easily have let mayor Rob Ford‘s Monday night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! pass with nothing more than gentle ribbing. Instead, he surprised everyone by confronting Ford with some hard truths about his public behaviour. The result was somewhere between late-night entertainment and a public stoning.
The pivotal moment comes about halfway through the interview, when Kimmel leads the mayor, already drowning in flop sweat, over to a video screen. This is when we see something we’ve never seen before: the mayor, watching his own highlight reel. Ford stands there while Kimmel shows the audience a video of the mayor threatening to kill an unknown person. “Who are you talking about in that video?” Kimmel asks, and Ford just shakes his head and tries to laugh it off. (There was no follow-up question about Scott MacIntyre, who alleges that he was the target of Ford’s rage, but it’s doubtful the mayor would have had much more to say on the subject in any case.)
Next up is the Steak Queen video. Ford’s face reddens as he watches himself rant in Jamaican patois and call the chief of police vulgar names. When pressed for an explanation, he gives his stock response. “Private setting, private friends, and it’s no secret, I have a lot of Jamaican friends,” he says.
At an earlier point in the interview, Kimmel reads a litany of complaints from social media users about Ford’s alleged domestic abuse, racism, homophobia and dishonesty. “Is there any validity to any of these things?” Kimmel asks. “Is that all they got?” Ford says, his face visibly reddening. At one point, Kimmel mops the mayor’s brow with a tissue.
None of this is to say that there aren’t funny moments. There are, but they come almost entirely at the mayor’s expense. His only salvation is his ability to stay on-message, but sometimes even that seems to work against him. At one point he refers to Kimmel and the audience as “taxpayers,” as though he were still campaigning in front of a Toronto crowd. One problem with Ford as an international celebrity-ambassador is that he has no instincts for pleasing people whose potholes he can’t fix.
Nobody from outside Toronto who watched the segment would come away with the impression that Ford is misunderstood, or that he’s actually a great guy. The naivety of his whole west-coast trip was at times almost touching. A Los Angeles Times article describes Ford, who had characterized his trip as a business mission, “wandering the marble hallways” at L.A. city hall before the Kimmel taping, “in search of mayor Eric Garcetti or anyone willing to sit down with him.” Garcetti was away on an official trade mission to Mexico, and there’s no evidence that Ford’s team tried to set up meetings with Los Angeles officials in advance.
It’s not clear what Ford was hoping to gain from all this, but if it was anything more than a couple nights out on the town with his brothers, he didn’t get it.
Here’s the rest of the Kimmel interview: