A bombshell report about Rob Ford's stay in a rehab is sparking debate about how much citizens are entitled to know about the private lives — and problems — of politicians.
Sources told The Toronto Star that Ford was both verbally and physically aggressive during his two-month stay at GreeneStone in Muskoka, where he reportedly disrupted other patients and was kicked out of his therapy group for preventing people from sharing their stories.
"Ford broke things, got into fights with other residents," said one person.
"Other residents felt intimidated. They felt he was bully," said another. "He was always saying he did not belong there."
According to the story, staff even feared the Toronto mayor was still using drugs and alcohol but the newspaper was unable to determine if that was the case.
Regardless, the scene described in the report clashes wildly with what Ford has said about his time in rehab.
In his first speech after returning to office, Ford said the professional help he received forced him out of denial about his substance abuse addictions.
"I now know the staff at GreeneStone saved my life," he said. "They forced me to confront my personal demons."
The Star story, published online Tuesday night, spurred discussion about how much information about Ford's stay in rehab is really in the public interest.
Some journalists seemed to suggest on Twitter that reporting on something so private was offside, considering the mayor was on a leave of absence from his duties at the time. Others suggested the story was appropriate because Ford has made his recovery an important part of his return to work and re-election campaign.
Ford's difficulties telling the truth also made the story fair game in the eyes of some journalists and others following this saga closely. So too did the fact that Ford granted interviews to The Toronto Sun while receiving treatment. The mayor told The Sun's Joe Warmington back in May that rehab was "amazing" and reminded him of a football camp he attended as a child.
Ford has made this kind of unpleasant story necessary.— Stephen Maher (@stphnmaher) July 9, 2014
I can think of any number of reasons why Ford's put rehab in-bounds for reporting. And yet it feels, emotionally, just gross.— Ivor Tossell (@ivortossell) July 9, 2014
The Star is reporting about Rob Ford's time in rehab. Which is disgusting. Not becoming of Canadian journalism. http://t.co/g5bG1jTYMk— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) July 9, 2014
Ford wasn't on the job while he was at rehab. I don't know how the Star can reconcile running that and claiming it's in the public interest.— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) July 9, 2014
Rob Ford continues reign as ultimate exception in moralizing minds. "Rehab, family *should* be off-limits except: ROB FORD"— Robyn Urback (@RobynUrback) July 9, 2014
Sorry, but I don’t think it’s ethically defensible for the Star to print a story that purports to describe Mayor Ford’s behaviour in rehab.— Adam Goldenberg (@adamgoldenberg) July 9, 2014
There's a lot we need to know where Rob Ford is concerned but breaching patient confidentiality isn't cool, regardless of patient.#topoli— Jennifer (@Momifer) July 9, 2014
I don't understand why the Toronto Star thinks it's in the public interest to expose Rob Ford's struggles while getting treatment. #topoli— Jeffrey Ferrier (@jtferrier) July 9, 2014
Ford won in 2010 partly because many voters thought criticism of him was over-the-top. He remembers that, but seems few others do. #topoli— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) July 9, 2014
Ford claimed he did well in rehab, and is in recovery. Turns out he didn't do well, and he's probably not in recovery. I think that's news— John Corbett (@CorComm) July 9, 2014
Ford made rehab part of his stump speech & disease a talking point. The Star's story is essentially fact checking campaign material #TOpoli— Andrew Tumilty (@AndrewTumilty) July 9, 2014
As long as Rob Ford insists on keeping his rehab stint in the news as a campaign talking point, he's entitled to zero privacy. #TOPoli— Alek (@alekt) July 9, 2014
Feren wrote that while he would normally disapprove of a newspaper publishing details of someone's rehab stint, Ford may have waived his right to confidentiality.
"IF Rob Ford were merely a private citizen, and IF Rob Ford were not running for re-election as mayor, and IF there were not already myriad examples of Rob Ford's mendacity, violent tendencies, and anti-social behaviour, this story might be considered inappropriate," Feren wrote. "But given the circumstances, it most definitely is not."
Unsurprisingly, Ford ignored reporters' questions about the story at City Hall on Wednesday.
What do you think? Did the Star cross a line by reporting on Ford’s experiences in rehab or, in light of all that has happened, is this in the public interest? Tell us in the comments.
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