November 20, 2013

Wife of Toronto mayor keeps low profile

Renata Ford and her two children try to stay out of the media glare created by the missteps of her beleaguered husband.

The Associated Press

TORONTO — While the spotlight shines brightly on Toronto’s embattled and erratic mayor, Rob Ford’s wife and two children have remained almost invisible – save for one widely known embarrassing incident. Little is known about his family, although it is clear that his wife craves her privacy.

Even before the scandalous revelations of recent weeks – detailing Ford’s illegal drug use and excessive drinking – his wife, Renata, had established her aversion to media attention.

She avoided campaigning for her husband in 2010, appearing with him only on election night after his surprise victory. Since then, the Fords have scarcely been seen together at any public occasion in Toronto, though she has accompanied him on a few official trips out of town.

Indeed, the public remains unsure of many details about her – including her age.

So it was striking to see her at her husband’s side at City Hall as he apologized last week for spouting an obscenity while denying allegations that he made sexual advances to a female staff member. The denial featured a graphically crude term for oral sex, and Ford compounded the shock by asserting he enjoys enough oral sex “at home.”

Clearly uncomfortable, Renata Ford stood silent, her eyes downcast. Pressed for comment as she exited through a crowd of reporters, she said: “I think my husband’s already said enough.”

Before last week, one of Renata Ford’s few forays into the media spotlight came in 2008, following a widely reported domestic dispute with her husband.

Rob Ford was charged with assault and threatening death, and the case went to court, but prosecutors withdrew the charges, citing inconsistencies in Renata Ford’s statements.

The couple’s children, 8-year-old Stephanie and 5-year-old Doug, have been spared any direct media coverage as their father’s misconduct prompted the City Council to strip away his powers. But the children figure indirectly in recently released police documents suggesting that some Ford staffers were at times concerned about their well-being.

In February, for example, Ford became publicly intoxicated at the Garrison Ball, an annual charity event to which he had taken his children, and he was asked to leave. According to police documents, staffers took the children to McDonald’s rather than let them get back into their father’s vehicle, which was being driven by a friend who has since been indicted on drug charges.

In another police document, former Ford assistant Chris Fickel told police of feeling uncomfortable during a visit to the mayor’s home as Ford lit up a marijuana cigarette while the children were upstairs.

Certainly one challenge to family life for the Fords has been the mayor’s penchant for personally returning phone calls, even those to his home in off hours from people he doesn’t know.

“My only problem with him is he’s so dedicated to his job that he doesn’t properly balance his life,” the family’s longtime lawyer, Denis Morris, said.

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