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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Analysis: Ford comes out the winner in the Dale/Star saga

Even if you're convinced you're in the right and that you will eventually win, lawsuits suck.

They're time consuming and stressful and very expensive.

So even though a number of legal authorities were fairly certain Rob Ford could have won the defamation suit launched by The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale, the apology, and subsequent clarification of the apology the day later was a smart move by Toronto's mayor. The suit, the costs of which were funded by The Star, was dropped by Dale and there were probably reasons other than the spirit of forgiveness involved.

In the first place, Ford never said Dale was a "pedophile". The only people accusing Ford of having implied that were Dale's media cronies. Ford was talking about his own feelings of concern when he was told by a neighbor that someone was taking pictures of his backyard (which Dale denies and Ford has now said was not what Dale was doing). Thus, aside from the obstacle of proving Ford had defamed him, it would have been difficult, if not impossible for Dale to establish any damages even in the event of a ruling in his favor. As Ford never said Dale was a pedophile and nothing Ford has said has led anyone to believe Daniel Dale is a pedophile, how could Dale establish that his reputation has been harmed?

As a tactical move, the Ford apology, which clarified that he retracted any negative interpretation of Dale that could be attached to the TV interview the mayor had with Conrad Black, changed the equation. Almost certainly crafted with assistance from lawyers, the apology placed Dale and The Star in a position where they would very likely have been hit with all of Ford's costs if the matter went to trial and a judgement were reached against them.

Moreover, as much as the law suit was seen, from the onset, as another example of The Star's obsessive agenda to go after Ford using any means they could think of, following his initial apology, the tides had turned a great deal.

Even people not necessarily sympathetic to Ford were viewing the continuation of the suit at that point as petty, vindictive, and a substantiation of a vendetta The Star has had against Ford for the last 3 years.

The Star has come off as the major loser in all this. When Dale stated that with his employer's support, he would continue to be the City Hall reporter while suing the mayor, it became obvious beyond any doubt that even the pretense of objectivity could no longer be maintained by The Toronto Star.

Now Ford can concentrate on his campaign for re-election, with issues working in his favor such as his opponents' wastefulness, their penchant for taxation, and their corrupt subservience to unions.

So for Ford, the lawsuit has gone away, whereas for The Toronto Star, the stigma of bias, pettiness and unprofessionalism will stick around for a very long time.

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