KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The funeral for the former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, was held today. Ford died after 18 months in treatment for a rare and aggressive cancer. Here is his 10-year-old daughter, Stephanie, speaking at the service.
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STEPHANIE FORD: I know my dad is in a better place now, and he's the mayor of heaven now (laughter).
MCEVERS: Ford's obituaries described him as brash, bombastic, controversial. He became well-known far beyond Toronto in 2013, when a video of him smoking crack went public. He eventually admitted it was authentic, but still he did not leave office. Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star covered Ford's tenure as mayor, and he is with us now. Welcome to the show.
DANIEL DALE: Thank you very much.
MCEVERS: Despite having some very public flaws, as we mentioned, Rob Ford seemed to remain a beloved figure to many people.
DALE: I think was very human. People could empathize and understand his very public flaws. And he also, you know, demonstrated affection and concern for a part of the population that often felt ignored by the political elite - you know, people in public housing whose doors he would knock on to ask if their fridge and stoves were OK. You know, people in neighborhoods that felt neglected, they felt that, despite his wealth, despite the fact that he was mayor, he was one of them.
MCEVERS: You know, it's interesting - he was the son of a self-made millionaire, but yet, he was known to be this man of the people. Who exactly was he popular with?
DALE: You know, it was this very unusual coalition of people we'd recognize as traditional conservatives who wanted small government and lower taxes, and then people who were in neighborhoods that felt forgotten, many of whom were immigrants, many of whom were low-income, who felt like Rob Ford cared about them more than any other politician did.
MCEVERS: When this video of Ford smoking crack first came out in 2013, he, at first, denied it, and then later admitted that it was real. I mean, this was really big news here in the States. How did it go over in Toronto?
DALE: It was a bomb. It was an absolutely crazy time. I mean, there was basically a six-month period where Ford denied that this video was real. He denied that he had smoked crack. And, more interestingly, about half the population, according to one poll, believed him, so it was really polarizing. It was really emotional, intense and difficult for everyone.
MCEVERS: And yet, he did admit it eventually. And then he did stay in office. Were you surprised by that?
DALE: No because what we learned was that there was no mechanism by which a Toronto mayor could be removed from office. So Ford stayed in office, but he was really humbled and really limited. And we had this just unprecedented situation where we had a mayor in name only.
MCEVERS: What story stands out the most to you from your time of covering him as mayor?
DALE: You know, it was - it was just day after day of unprecedented stuff, from, you know, incendiary, controversial or prejudiced remarks he would make, to, you know, the mayor climbing on a jungle gym at the opening of a waterfront park, or the mayor dragging the downtown-based media out as he painstakingly knocked on every door in a public housing tower. It was just all amazing and wild and unprecedented. It was a crazy time.
MCEVERS: That was Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star. He joined us to talk about the late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. Thank you very much.
DALE: Thank you.
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