Yet again, controversy is engulfing the Mayor’s Office. This time, over a photograph that appeared online that shows Mayor Rob Ford posing for the camera with an apparent neo-Nazi during the annual New Year’s Levee at city hall.
The mayor’s communications staff is in full public relations control. Warren Kinsella, a Liberal columnist for the Sun News Network, published a photograph on his blog Thursday that shows former member of the neo-Nazi band Rahowa Jon Latvis, wearing a Latvian military uniform, standing with Rob Ford during a meet and greet at city hall.
“That info took me 45 seconds to locate on the Internet. It would have taken the mayor’s staff about as much time. Latvis doesn’t hide his name or past, particularly,” Kinsella wrote in his blog post. “Question: why is Toronto’s mayor palsy with a former neo-Nazi icon?”
Latvis posted the photo on his Facebook page on May 6. “Me meeting with Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford to get an endorsement for the Latvian Homeguard — at Toronto City Hall,” Latvis wrote in the description of the picture.
Hours after the information made the rounds on the Internet, the Mayor’s Office issued a statement, in which it explains that the mayor met with hundreds of people at January’s event. According to Press Secretary George Christopoulos, Latvis asked for a meeting with the mayor to discuss issues that were of significant importance to the gentleman, which is a regular request from constituents.
Nearly 800 people lined up in January for the annual New Year's Levee to meet and greet Mayor Rob Ford and city councillors.
In March, Latvis met with the mayor for a short period of time to talk about transit issues.
“During both the Levee and the March meeting, the gentleman identified himself using a name different from the one attributed to him in the recent blog article,” Christopoulos said in the statement. “Once the photograph was posted online today, Mayor's Office staff recognized the individual as someone who had met with the Mayor at the Levee and again in March.”
The Office of the Mayor stated that Ford was completely unaware of the allegations made against Latvis. Furthermore, Christopoulos confirmed that any racist, hateful or offensive remarks were not at anytime made in the short meeting.
“Mayor Ford is a strong supporter of Toronto's Jewish community and strongly deplores anti-Semitism in any form.”
The Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs also issued a statement Thursday afternoon in response to the report. The group explained that it fully understands that the Mayor’s Office cannot screen thousands of people Ford meets each year.
“We want to thank Mayor Ford for his quick response to this matter, and reiterate the fact that we consider the Mayor a true friend of Toronto’s Jewish community,” said David Spiro, Greater Toronto Co-Chair of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in the written statement.