A Statement on the Smitherman / Ford Controversy

Earlier today, I posted from my Twitter account stating that “George Smitherman should spend less time attacking Rob Ford for telling the truth about AIDS, more time coming up with actual policies.”

This was in response to a media report I read this morning describing Mr. Smitherman attacking Mr. Ford at a mayoral debate for comments from several years ago stating that “AIDS is preventable” and remarking that infections of HIV/AIDS are significantly higher among gay men and among users of intravenous drugs.

I was informed late this afternoon that a member of the campaign team for Rob Ford re-tweeted my comment, causing Mr. Smitherman’s team to again attack Mr. Ford and for the Ford staffer who re-tweeted my post to be dismissed from the campaign.

I would like to clarify some issues.

I am not associated with Rob Ford’s campaign in any way. As far as I know, I’ve never met Mr. Ford. I have not endorsed his candidacy for mayor.

My dislike of Mr. Smitherman is no secret. My strong opposition to his candidacy relates largely to the campaign in which he was involved during the last provincial election during which the Liberal Party focused their campaign on their opposition to funding religious schools (apart from Roman Catholic schools like those Dalton McGuinty attended and at which his wife teaches), and demonizing those who would send their children to schools that reflect their family’s values and traditions – many of my friends and family included. As a Jew, I deeply resent Mr. Smitherman’s implication that my faith is somehow less worthy than that of Mr. McGuinty.

Given Mr. Smitherman’s opposition to equal funding for Ontarians outside of the Catholic faith and his support for maintaining discrimination against religious minorities in our school system, I find it ironic that he, of all people, would question Mr. Ford’s “character” to be mayor of “one of the most diverse places to be found anywhere in the world.”

As to Mr. Smitherman’s outrage at Mr. Ford pointing out higher transmission rates among gay men and drug users, is Mr. Smitherman claiming that this is not factually accurate? The Center for Disease Control has compiled the following information which outlines the plainly evident truth. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic.htm#incidence Pointing out readily available facts with which any medical professional would agree should not be cause for controversy. If Mr. Ford were to say that “cigarette smokers are more likely to get lung cancer” or that “overweight people with poor diets are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes” would this be remotely controversial?

I certainly (and assume this is true for Mr. Ford as well) never intended for my remark to be, in any way, construed as being disparaging towards those living with this illness or towards people of any community or lifestyle.

Obviously, those infected with HIV/AIDS should be treated with compassion and respect and given access to the medical care that they require as we continue to seek a cure to this horrible disease. I, personally, have contributed to several AIDS-related organizations and will continue to do so. It’s unfortunate that during his tenure as Ontario’s Minister of Health, Mr. Smitherman wasted over a billion dollars of taxpayer money on the e-Health boondoggle. I would think that this billion dollars could have gone a long way towards providing treatment and medication to people living with HIV/AIDS. Frankly,this illness and the lives of the many people that it affects should be above being used by anyone to try to score cheap political points and advance their own self-interest by exploiting the suffering of others. I would say that this entire exchange reveals far more about Mr. Smitherman’s “character” than it does about Mr. Ford’s.

With regards to the Ford campaigner who was dismissed over this incident, I do consider it an unfortunate overreaction to an over-eager young volunteer but sincerely regret how my own words could cause this person the problems that it has.

Finally, it’s interesting that my remark chastising Mr. Smitherman for focusing his campaign on personal attacks instead of actual policy has resulted in a lot more personal attacks and, yet, not one substantive policy idea.

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One response to “A Statement on the Smitherman / Ford Controversy

  1. Too bad that’s not what Ford said. In fact, here’s what he said, according to the Toronto Star:

    “It is very preventable,” Ford told council in 2006. “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s the bottom line.”

    So you got the ‘preventable’ part correct, but to summarize the rest of his comments as simply “remarking that infections of HIV/AIDS are significantly higher among gay men and among users of intravenous drugs” as you’ve tried to – well that’s just flat out wrong. And misleading. Saying that if you’re not gay you probably won’t get aids, is WAY BEYOND simply “remarking” that infection rates are higher among these groups.

    I do commend you for noting your bias though – sharing your dislike of Smitherman as the motivation for your disinformation is certainly insightful.

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