Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston.
I don't know about you, but I'm glad I'm not Rob Ford this week. The Toronto mayor has been generating horrible headlines for smoking crack cocaine, and other disturbing behaviors, all caught on video tape. But spare a thought for Rob Ford, lecturer at the University of Manchester in England. He didn't do anything wrong, yet he and other Rob Fords out there are suffering the cyber consequences, especially on Twitter.
Rob Ford: Somebody called me the Chris Farley of Canada, referencing that guy from Saturday Night Live, probably weighed about 300 pounds, I think. So I had to reply to him and say, "no, actually, thankfully I don't quite look like that." I've had various other ones to do with, you know, "you should resign," or you know, some people sort of seem to be in favor of Rob Ford's lifestyle choices as well. So you got a few people saying, you know, "Keep it up," that kind of thing. So, but mostly the Twitter sentiment seems to be pretty negative.
Werman: I mean, how do you kind of deal with that, and how do you respond to people on Twitter? Because ultimately, at the end of the day, it's kind of a sad story, the one about Rob Ford the Toronto mayor.
Ford: I do feel a bit sorry for him, not just because he shares my name, because he's not really the kind of guy who's cut out for that kind of high pressure job. The way I respond to these guys is I just kind of point out the error, and generally I try and make a joke about it. And 95% of the time, well, I get an extremely sort of polite and apologetic responses. The Canadians certainly live up to their reputations for being a very civil bunch.
Werman: How so?
Ford: Well, they always get sort of, "Really sorry about making the mistake, and really sorry for you that you unfortunately share this name." And some of them say, "Oh, you should come over to Toronto, you should come and run as our mayor, you'd be much better," and all this kind of thing. So it's kind of boosted my opinion of Canadians generally, I think.
Werman: [Laughs] Your name is actually trending now on Twitter. Congratulations. Hashtag Rob Ford. Does that feel strange, or good, or bad, what does it feel like?
Ford: [Laughs] It is a little bit, sort of, surreal. All of my friends get hold of this stuff and so they have endless fun with it. But it is quite a common name, so I did have this experience before when my name was all over billboards, because there was that film, 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'. So I've kind of been here before a little bit. It's the hazards of having a very common name, I guess.
Werman: How many Rob Fords have you run across in your lifetime?
Ford: As a matter of fact, my father had a "big book of Fords," as he called it. Though someone, whose surname is Ford, actually compiles an enormous global compendium of all the Fords that are out there. And that was about three or four inches thick, so there's clearly a lot of us.
Werman: BBF, the Big Book of Fords.
Ford: That's right, yeah, set up on a shelf somewhere.
Werman: We actually spoke with a couple of Rob Fords today, and one Rob Ford, who's a broadcaster for the Houston Astros, said he was almost relieved that Rob Ford's crime seemed kind of ridiculous. He mentioned another sports broadcaster that was named Jerry Sandusky, who was also a college football coach serving time for child sex abuse. Two different people. So I'm just wondering, is there any relief that, "Wow, this could have been so much worse?"
Ford: That's very true. I mean, this is the kind of situation where you can really laugh it off, the whole story's kind of lurid, but in it, kind of a semi-ridiculous way, where if it was something much more grave like that, then the name mix-up becomes a much more of an anxiety producing phenomenon. So it's a relief that it's the kind of story that people can laugh about.
Werman: I'm just curious, what kind of impression do you now have of Toronto, this city with this Rob Ford business as its most current calling card?
Ford: The impression I get, based on the Torontans I've been dealing with, is they seem to be a very nice bunch. I've always been keen to visit because a colleague of mine actually worked out there for a year and raves about it being a really great place to go, so I was keen on it even before. I am kind of mystified how they ended up electing this guy. And you know, I am actually a politics expert, so maybe I should look into that, I might need a bit of research about what explains the popularity of my namesake. It seems like his eccentricities should have been known, like, fairly early on, but you know, we have the odd eccentric down here as well. The London one's quite well known, so I guess it does happen.
Werman: Rob Ford, nope, not that Rob Ford. This Rob Ford lectures on politics at the University of Manchester, in England. Rob, thanks a lot for your time.
Ford: Hey, no problem. Cheers.