POLITICS

Ford talks football, pivots around pointed questions with radio 'Sports Junkies'

12/05/2013 12:29 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST
WASHINGTON - A quartet of self-described "knuckleheads" celebrated a journalistic touchdown Thursday as they nabbed a timely, unexpected interview with Rob Ford.

The Washington, D.C., sports-radio hosts described how they'd sent the Toronto mayor an invitation a few weeks back, mainly as a lark, to offer football predictions on their show.

But to their great surprise Ford agreed to appear once a week on "The Sports Junkies," a CBS morning radio show on WJFK-FM.

Little did they know the first show would end up airing one day after a fresh eruption of explosive allegations about Ford, leaving them with an unanticipated news exclusive.

Before they knew it, the hosts told listeners, CNN was asking to send a camera crew into their studio to tape their segment on NFL football picks.

"We're happy to be joined by the most controversial political figure in the world right now," one said as he introduced Ford.

Barely a minute earlier, they'd been mocking him.

The hosts made fun of Ford's weight before he joined them on the air, describing him as having a "quadruple-chin."

They also shared a laugh over one of the new allegations — that Ford is believed to have offered purported gang members $5,000 and a car in exchange for a video that purportedly shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine.

The latest allegations, which have not been proven in court, are contained in wiretap summaries put together as part of a guns and gangs investigation that were in a police document released Wednesday.

"(Wow), $5,000!" one of the hosts exclaimed, sarcastically.

It wasn't all laughter and levity, though.

The hosts acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations and said they had a duty to address them on the air, if only in passing. But they made it clear that they'd invited Ford onto their show to talk football, and that's what they mostly planned to do.

"We're not the Smoking Gun. We're not 60 Minutes," one host said.

"We're four knuckleheads who want to have this larger-than-life personality on.... We're not going to backstab the guy. We're not the moral police."

Ford has admitted to smoking crack cocaine in the past, "probably in one of my drunken stupors," and has apologized for it, but says he does not use the drug and is not an addict.

When the hosts did ask about the latest court documents, Ford dismissed the allegations as an "outright lie" and referred any further questions on the subject to his lawyer.

In the end, they mostly talked football. Ford wound up impressing them with his knowledge of the sport and offered predictions on all of this week's games, going beyond the few picks the hosts had asked him to make.

Ford explained that he'd coached for 22 years. He said his admiration for the Washington Redskins stemmed from his stint at a pro football camp years ago.

He also revealed that he bets regularly on NFL football through the provincial lottery board. His hosts, who were taping their show from an Atlantic City casino, expressed support for Canada's legal sports gambling.

The mayor was asked about an embarrassing viral video that shows him tumbling to the ground while preparing to pass a football.

"I'm not a quarterback," Ford said. "I was a centre."

He denied stealing anyone's seat at a recent Buffalo Bills game in Toronto and said he'd been escorted to that spot by an usher. He also said he enjoyed having people come up to him throughout the game to have their picture taken with him.

"I'm really humbled by all the support," he said, describing himself as a historically great mayor for keeping taxes low, returning people's phone calls, and maintaining labour peace.

"I have a lot of supporters in Toronto."

But he said he knew he was taking a risk at the Bills game, as a politician in a public venue, by digging into a proffered helping of chicken wings with so many photographers present.

"I dipped into those hot wings and they got me — whammo!"

Ford also fielded some political questions.

Asked for his opinion about U.S. President Barack Obama, Ford said he liked him personally, but not his politics. In another recent U.S. media interview, Ford's brother Doug described the mayor as "the white Obama."

It turns out that the white Obama doesn't actually like Obamacare: Ford said he doesn't support an extension of public health care. He said he's a conservative and, if he were American, he'd be a Republican.

"I can't get my head around (what Obama's doing on health care)," he said.