Jimmy Kimmel Live! features innovative skits, celebrity interviews, and music. It’s an enjoyable and somewhat lightweight late-evening program. Kimmel, however, has never been known as the strongest interviewer. It’s no burden when he’s chatting with celebrities. But his recent interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, best known for admitting he used crack when he was drunk, was not Kimmel’s finest moment.
Kimmel’s (and his staff’s) flaws were evident in a travesty of an interview, poor research, and lack of follow-up questions. Ford made outrageous claims or avoided responding to the few tough questions Kimmel asked. Kimmel seemed more interested in making Ford his buddy than learning what makes this man tick. Far too many softball questions were tossed at Ford, as if Kimmel didn’t want to insult his guest.
Ford made claims of financial achievements that Kimmel didn’t question (claims Ford made twice). If you believed Ford he resurrected Toronto. I have to fault his staff for not having figures to counter Ford’s claims and Kimmel for not following up with tough questions. If Ford has achieved all he claimed why were his powers stripped by the Toronto council? Council transferred a significant chunk of the mayor’s budget and many of his powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Ford, who is running for re-election, then claimed that if re-elected his powers would be restored. The obvious follow-up question, which Kimmel declined to ask, was wouldn’t the city council simply strip him of his powers again?
We also heard a Kimmel-lite when he question Ford about his cocaine use and alcoholism. Kimmel asked one question which Ford evaded and then went on to another topic. Why didn’t Kimmel press Ford on allegations that he smoked crack cocaine while in office, had gotten behind the wheel after having a few drinks, and purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?
Even the enjoyable replay of Ford’s many foibles captured in video clips allowed Ford to steer the conversation. The video montage showed an out-out-control Ford. Kimmel and Ford laughed at them together when hard questions should have been posed. Kimmel seemed won over by Ford’s jovial personality.
Kimmel’s toughest comment dealt with a barb about his poor selection of ties. Ford took Kimmel’s harsh criticism in stride, laughing with Kimmel. The man knew he had the host right in the palm of his hands.
Neither Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon, as new host of The Tonight Show, are adept at questioning non-celebrities like Ford. Only David Letterman would have asked the hard questions and refused to accept Ford’s deflections. Letterman’s staff would have prepared the host with facts to refute any false allegations Ford made. Letterman’s scrutiny is probably why Mitt Romney refused to appear on Letterman’s show after he had been a guest of Jay Leno.
If this were a title fight Rob Ford would have won easily, possibly by a knockout. A shame because Kimmel was given a wonderful opportunity to add to his credibility. And he blew it.