Mayor Rob Ford says he took a trip to Los Angeles this weekend to help promote Toronto, but some critics are skeptical about the motivation for his trip and the end result it will bring.
Ford touched down in Los Angeles on Saturday, where he was greeted by late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel, who was dressed up as a chauffeur and holding a sign that said "FORD."
Travelling with his two older brothers, images of Ford soon popped up on Instagram and other social media sites, with the mayor of Canada’s most populous city posing with people he met in L.A.
When CBC News spoke to Ford by telephone on Sunday afternoon, the mayor said that he was simply doing his job while in Los Angeles.
"I'm here to promote and sell Toronto," Ford told CBC News in a telephone interview on Sunday from Los Angeles.
His brother, Coun. Doug Ford, also told told CBC News that "the purpose" of the U.S. trip was to promote Toronto.
"Tourism Toronto must be doing cartwheels getting all this free advertising and that’s the purpose of the trip," he said in a telephone interview.
The mayor’s brother said that they were paying for part of their trip, while Kimmel’s show was covering part of the trip. Coun. Ford said that "taxpayers are not paying for a penny of it."
But back in Toronto, Coun. Joe Mihevc said he doesn’t think that Mayor Ford travelled all the way to Los Angeles just to promote the city.
“It is another chapter in the absurd story that we’ve been living over the past few years,” Mihevc said Sunday, when speaking with CBC News at his Toronto home.
“For him, I think it is really trying to leverage his notoriety and be attached to the star power that he hopes will then lead on to a successful election campaign this October.”
Similarly on Twitter, some users questioned how effective the mayor’s trip would really be in promoting the city:
Rob Ford should probably learn the difference between 'promote our city' and 'embarrass our city' while in LA.— naté (@taymaetz) March 2, 2014
Controversy breeds celebrity-like recognition
The mayor, whose arrival in Los Angeles was covered by the popular entertainment news website TMZ, was asked by CBC News if his snap trip to Tinseltown went against his image of being an everyman.
"I'm just an average, hard-working guy, that's exactly what I am," he said.
Yet, the story of Ford’s crack-use denial and eventual admission to having smoked crack have been covered by media around the world, including in the U.S.
It has made him a widely recognized person and he has become a target of many late-night comedians, including Kimmel.
Ford has said that after many requests, he has agreed to go on Kimmel’s show after a personal appeal from the host.
"He personally called me on my cellphone to invite me down here," Ford told CBC News.
Mihevc said that he believes that Ford’s pending late-night television appearance will ultimately end up with the mayor once again being the butt of the comedian’s jokes.
"We'll see, frankly, America, making fun of the mayor at the mayor’s expense. And as long as he doesn’t wrap Toronto up in that’s story, that’s fine," he said.
"But maybe someone should tell the mayor … the world is laughing and they are not laughing with him, they are laughing at him."
While Ford was expected to attend Kimmel’s annual Oscar party on Sunday night and to be appearing on his show on Monday, it isn’t the first time the mayor of Toronto has had a brush with a celebrity. Comedian Dave Chapelle dropped by his office at Toronto City Hall a couple of years ago and Ford had arm-wrestle with Hulk Hogan last year. Also just a day after Ford admitted to having smoked crack, another former professional wrestler challenged the mayor to a separate arm wrestle.
There could even be a Ford-related movie one day, given that a film company has purchased the rights to Robyn Doolitte’s Crazy Town — a book that covers the mayor’s rise to prominence and the drug scandal that has enveloped his office over the past 10 months.
Ford is facing an increasingly crowded field of more than two-dozen candidates who are seeking his job in the Oct. 27 election. Former Ontario PC leader John Tory, Coun. Karen Stintz and former councillor David Soknacki are among the candidates who are running against him.
Ford, a 44-year-old married father of two, is in the fourth year of his mayoral term. He spent 10 years serving as a city councillor before he was elected mayor in 2010.