Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale said Thursday he did not stand on cinder blocks and peer over Mayor Rob Ford’s back fence in an attempt to take photographs of his house.
Speaking Thursday afternoon for the first time since a bizarre confrontation with the mayor near Ford’s house on Wednesday, Dale said he was on public land to research a story.
Ford has said Dale stood on a pair of cinder blocks located beyond his back fence while snapping photos of his house. Dale denied this Thursday.
“I never saw cinder blocks on this public parcel of land,” Dale said. “I do not have the agility to balance on such cinder blocks. I certainly did not try,” he said. "I never peered over the fence. I never made an attempt to look over the fence."
Dale wrote a story published on the Star’s website Wednesday about the mayor’s application to purchase a piece of wooded land owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and located near Ford’s house. Ford has said he wanted to purchase the land for security reasons.
Dale said his visit to the property was needed to conduct research related to his story.
“I thought that I would be a diligent journalist and go and see where this property was, what it looked like,” Dale told reporters on Thursday. “My other question was what type of fencing the mayor and his family have around their house because in their letter to the [conservation authority], they had said the reasons they need to buy this land… was that it would allow them to build a better security fence.”
Dale said he did take some photos of the back of Ford's house with his BlackBerry, but said they were taken from a distance. Dale pointed out that he is a reporter, not a photographer, and that the pictures were part of research for his story.
"I had no interest in talking to the mayor or his family," Dale said. "I wanted to see this plot of trees and grass, see a fence and get out of there."
At some point, Ford was alerted to Dale's presence behind his house and confronted him. Dale said Ford blocked his exit route from the backyard while confronting him in an aggressive manner.
“I was trying to side-step him and get away," Dale said Thursday. "Every time I did, he would go the same way as me. I was trying my hardest to leave. All I wanted to do was get out of there. Someone much larger than me came at me with a raised fist. I felt I was in danger.”
"I am not ashamed to say that I did yell for help repeatedly," Dale said.
Dale said he is uncomfortable about becoming the centre of a news story while trying to research one but said he did nothing wrong and did not trespass on Ford’s property.
“I just want to cover the mayor and write fair stories about the mayor,” he said. "It’s been a crazy couple of days.”
He also said he doesn’t think Ford’s public statements about the incident have been “accurate or honest.”