Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been in the news this week for two videos, one that shows the mayor in a drunken rage, and another that shows him smoking crack. Yet amid the controversy and calls for his resignation, Ford’s approval rating has managed a five point uptick. How does a mayor improve his reputation by smoking crack and threatening murder?

The “First-Degree Murder” Video

The video released this week shows a belligerent and highly inebriated mayor ranting about murder:

“I’m going to kill that f..ing guy. I’m telling you it’s first-degree murder … He dies or I die, brother.”

“I need f—ing 10 minutes to make sure he’s dead.”

Hardly the words one would expect to hear from a mayor. But according to a source close to the mayor, this is not unexpected, as “he sometimes goes off on tangents.”

The Mayor Who Smoked Crack

In another video unreleased to the public, Ford is seen smoking crack cocaine. After the video surfaced to the authorities this week, he admitted to reporters that he has, in fact, tried crack before, a charge that he denied when rumors of the video began to float around in May.

“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” said Ford.

Ford downplayed his use of crack, noting that it is not a regular practice, but one that may happen in a drunken stupor.

“Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it, probably in one of my drunken stupors a year ago.”

Many in Toronto have called for Ford’s resignation, including Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who says he is “disappointed” in the mayor. And 60% of Toronto residents think he should resign. Even Ford’s own mother admitted that her son’s behavior was not acceptable for a mayor. Yet his approval rating remains healthy.

A mayor who has been caught smoking crack and threatening murder usually can’t expect to stay mayor for much longer. But Ford has a secret weapon: humility. It’s what has, amazingly, given him a higher approval rating than before his crack confession. That’s right, Ford’s approval rating went up by five points after he admitted to smoking crack. His 43% approval rating puts him higher on job approval than President Obama, who currently has a 41% approval rating. A crack smoking, murder threatening mayor is perceived to be doing a better job than our nation’s president. But how?

Mayor Ford’s Appeal to Humility

In a press conference, Mayor Ford issued another statement, this one including an apology to the city and all parties involved in the incident. He appealed to empathy and emphasized that he’s an ordinary man. Ford also made it clear that he has no plans to resign. In fact, he’s looking forward to another term, and experts think he could easily be re-elected. As colleagues threatened to quit, the mayor stood his ground.

“I’ll be running the ship even if it is by myself.”

“I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing,” says Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

University of Toronto politics professor Nelson Wiseman sees re-election as a strong possibility because crack has little to do with why Toroto elected Ford.

“The attitude of a lot of people is that, ‘Look, I didn’t elect this guy because he doesn’t sleep around or he doesn’t do crack cocaine. I elected him because I think there’s a gravy train at City Hall, and that’s what I care about.”

Torontoans have seen a number of questionable calls from their mayor. He quit his diet during a public weight loss campaign. He dropped an f-bomb while walking face first into a camera. He was caught reading while driving. And he is terrible at football. Meanwhile, his approval rating holds steady.

It seems that while Torontoans may not be enthused by Ford’s personal battles, they agree with the job he is doing. That, along with Ford’s “everyman” approach to politics, seems to be keeping the mayor afloat.

“I am not perfect,” says Ford.

Where does Ford go from here? Legally, he can not be forced to leave office without a criminal conviction. But a break, presumably for rehab, may be in his future. Ford’s lawyer shared that the mayor is considering rehab, and his brother says it may be time for Ford to “go away for a few weeks.”

Ford’s brother also noted, “That man is the most honest politician in the country when it comes to saving taxpayers money.”

Can a mayor literally smoke crack cocaine, threaten murder, and actually improve his reputation? If Ford’s approval rating is any indication, the answer is yes. It’s still not clear what the future holds for Ford, but the incident offers an interesting lesson for politicians. Do a good job, appeal with humility, and you just might get away with a train wreck of a personal life.

Photo of Joseph Torrillo
About the Author

Born and proudly raised in Syracuse, NY, Joseph joined the team in 2008 as the Director of Reputation Management after earning his B.S. in Public Policy. He is now the Vice President of the department.

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