TORONTO - He's a larger-than-life character whose fits of pique helped cement his self-branding as an ordinary dude among his supporters, although detractors labelled him a bully.
Now, Mayor Rob Ford has again aroused conflicting passions for using profanities when he called 911 seeking police help after a TV comedy crew confronted him in his driveway.
According to the CBC on Thursday, Ford allegedly asked the emergency operator: "Don’t you (expletive) know? I’m Rob (expletive) Ford, the mayor of this city."
The report which did not specify its sources also said he called the operators names, something Ford denied strenuously.
The mayor did admit to being frustrated at the police response time, but called allegations he made "foul and derogatory comments" toward the 911 staff "absolutely false."
"After being attacked in my driveway, I hope I can be excused for saying the F-word," Ford said in the statement.
"I never called anyone any names. I apologize for expressing my frustration inappropriately."
Police had no comment.
On Monday morning, the CBC-TV comedy show "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" confronted Ford in his driveway at home as the mayor was about to get into his car.
Ford fled inside as Mary Walsh, dressed as the outlandish character Marg Delahunty, cooed: "Mayor Ford, I came to give you a hand, honey."
The mayor, who said he has had death threats, said he called 911 because Walsh had frightened him and his six-year-old daughter. He said he didn't know Walsh or the show.
"Maybe other people know about this "22 Minutes" (but) I've never seen this show, so I didn't know who they were," Ford said Thursday.
"You have one big guy and a lady who looked like a guy dressed up _ I couldn't really tell ... and I've had a few death threats, I have to be careful."
The CBC said Ford called 911 a second time when police didn't arrive quickly enough, and that the mayor verbally abused the operator.
"I was very upset," Ford told reporters.
"I was accosted in my driveway. Maybe I shouldn't have used the F-word."
The mayor also criticized Walsh and the comedy crew.
"Their behaviour was traumatic for my daughter and in no way acceptable professional behaviour."
Ford said he was not asking the CBC for an apology, saying "it's up to them."
He also said he had not had a chance to talk to police about releasing the 911 tapes, which could confirm his version of events, and police said they would not do so without a formal request from Ford.
It's not the first time Ford has been in the news for allegedly losing his cool.
In July, a motorist complained that Ford gave her and her six-year-old daughter "the finger" and swore at them when they urged him to stop talking on his cellphone while driving.
Ford admitted to talking on the phone while behind the wheel — illegal in Ontario — but denied being abusive.
A year ago, Ford swept to the city's top office on a populist wave with promises of "gravy" cutting, but his efforts at cutting down the public sector have run headlong into furious opposition.
Word of the 911 calls unleashed a torrent of online and media reaction — most of it critical of the mayor.
One National Post newspaper columnist, Kelly McParland, said Ford appeared to have "anger management issues" and called on the mayor to apologize.
Jesse Brown, a blogger and columnist with Toronto Life magazine, tweeted that Walsh's Ford satire had fallen flat.
"It's because he's already a caricature of himself ... like a turkey that makes its own gravy," Brown said.
Some were sympathetic to Ford.
"I guess we are all supposed to know who Marg Delahunty is?" said one online CBC post from someone identifying themselves as Joshua Slocum.
"The show they quote is not on my watch list and therefore I may have called 911 myself, with this loud obnoxious stranger attacking me in my driveway first thing in the morning."
"If someone stuck a camera in my face in front of my home on my driveway uninvited, I might do more then just go in my house and call the police," said another CBC poster with the handle Jayteee.
Still others wondered if Ford would call in the army to protect him from the CBC, a reference to when former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, in a fit of snowsteria, sparked national merriment by asking the military to help dig the city out after a storm.
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