For the past 15 months, the brothers Ford have spent two hours on Sunday afternoons moonlighting as comically pugnacious AM radio talk jocks, jawing about key issues â€“ fiscal restraint, lazy politicians, the primacy of subways â€“ and shining a light on important community causes.
As they are targeted by aggressive local media, especially in the past two weeks as allegations of drug involvement swirled about them and the mayorâ€™s office suffered some key departures, their Newstalk 1010 show, The City, has proven a comfortable bunker where they can shut out their naysayers and regroup.
And while they may infuriate critics by using the showâ€™s bully pulpit to beat up opponents, the stationâ€™s management intends to keep them on the air for as long as it can without running afoul of Canadian election law. If they delay registering their candidacies for the 2014 election, it may be difficult to remove them until late in the race. (Mayor Ford has said he will be registering â€œthe first day I can possibly registerâ€ in early January next year.)
Newstalk 1010 hatched The City in the fall of 2011, with centrist councillor Josh Matlow as host because, according to the stationâ€™s program director Mike Bendixen, â€œa lot of our listeners were fed up with just hearing about all the screaming and yelling and nonsense that was happening at City Hall.â€ Six months later, after an overture by someone on the mayorâ€™s staff, Mr. Bendixen handed the show over to the Fords.
Critics instantly howled, but many of them have helped give the show a wider resonance than it might otherwise have. Twitter traffic during the shows overflows with mockery of the Fords, an apparent love-to-hate phenomenon. What are deemed as outrageous comments are dutifully reported, echoing out across social media.
That may be in part because sitting mayors hosting radio shows are rare in Canada. They are far more common in the U.S. One of the most high-profile examples was New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who regularly antagonized enemies and common folk alike who dared call in during his Friday morning radio show.