Lauer Maintains Poise in Contentious Interview with Toronto Mayor

by | November 19, 2013 at 10:55 AM | The Today Show, TV News

NBC's Matt Lauer (inset) flew to Toronto to interview beleaguered Mayor Rob Ford (seen here earlier this month). (Photos: NBC, Getty Images)

NBC’s Matt Lauer stood his ground when he faced off against embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Ford’s brother — Toronto city councilman Doug Ford Jr. — in an interview seen Tuesday morning on “The Today Show.”

Lauer, 55, flew to Toronto Monday night to videotape an interview with the prickly pair, who made excuse after excuse for Mayor Ford’s binge-drinking and use of crack cocaine.

Lauer parried everything they threw at him, and then still had enough energy left over to fly home and appear in the “Today Show’s” New York studio early on Tuesday morning to introduce the interview he conducted in the Canadian city.

In the interview, the Ford brothers applied the strategy they’ve adopted throughout the crack-smoking, binge-drinking scandal that has enveloped the mayor: First, openly admit that Mayor Ford has smoked crack and gone on drunken binges, then deny he has an actual addiction problem with cocaine and alcohol, and, finally, stress the positive effects of the Ford mayoralty on the residents of Toronto. For the most part, these claims have to do with Mayor Ford lowering taxes and saving Torontonians money.

“We’ve all made mistakes, Matt,” said Mayor Ford at one point, in an example of the strategy he is maintaining with the media. “I’m not perfect. Maybe you are. Maybe other people are. I’ve made mistakes — I admitted to my mistakes,” he said.

After the mayor admitted to sometimes binge-drinking late at night on weekends, Lauer asked him what would happen if an emergency struck the city at that time and the mayor was too inebriated to act. In his answer, Mayor Ford did what he often does in interviews — turning the question around so it is directed at the interviewer.

“That could happen with anybody at any time,” Ford said. “Say you had gone out drinking and you were drunk and something happened to your family …,” he said.

But Lauer shrewdly turned the question back on the mayor. “The lives of a million people don’t rest on my decisions,” Lauer pointed out.

“You have brought disgrace to this office, and you know that’s true,” Lauer told the mayor at the outset of their interview, after the mayor complained about the City Council’s decision earlier in the day to strip the mayor of most of his power.

“I’ve embarrassed not just myself [but] my family, my friends, my supporters, the whole city, I take full responsibility for that,” he admitted, just before going into his “we’ve all made mistakes” speech.

To his credit, Lauer gave up no ground. He accused the mayor of playing “semantic games” when he was asked if he is a crack addict.

“The best excuse I’ve heard you give [for using crack cocaine] is that you were in a drunken stupor,” Lauer said. “I’m wondering if that’s supposed to make anybody feel better.”

“No, not at all,” said the mayor, who nevertheless demanded that someone produce the video that shows him smoking crack — video that he has not seen, but reportedly exists.

“What does the video matter [if the mayor has already admitted he smoked crack]?” asked Lauer.

In his answer, Mayor Ford offered up this excuse: “I can’t even remember it! I was very, very inebriated!”