She has been called a quiet introvert, a ghost and even the "Invisible Wife", but this week Renata Ford, the slight and silent significant other of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, appeared in the public spotlight for the first time since he was elected three years ago.
On an early morning this week, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford entered city hall and shocked the world by describing in graphic detail a sexual act he allegedly performs on his wife and only his wife.
Faced with fresh claims from a released police document of drug use and drunken carousing, Ford dug his teeth into one specific allegation – that he had made sexual advances to a former female staff member.
“It says I wanted to eat her pussy and I have never in my life said that to her. I would never do that. I’m happily married. I’ve got more than enough to eat at home,” Ford said to the shock of everyone from city councillors and veteran city hall reporters to late-night television hosts.
At home, of course, is wife Renata, a notoriously private character in the Rob Ford saga. She has not been seen at a significant public event since Election Night 2010 celebrations, but she was at city hall on Thursday.
Within hours of making his obscene claim, Ford had dragged his wife in front of the media where, visibly uncomfortable, she stood silently as he addressed his decision to discuss the affairs of their bedroom in front of live television cameras.
"Respect my family's privacy," he said, before leading her through a wall of cameras and reporters, instead of the unobstructed side entrance he usually uses in such instances. With that, Renata Ford's undesired time in the spotlight was over. She left city hall uttering very little aside from, "I think my husband said already enough."
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Seemingly, Rob Ford has stood firm when it comes to his family: They are off limits. He shouts and threatens those who appear outside his suburban home and challenges those who attempt to speak with family members (unless they come looking for the spotlight). And indeed, this may be the only piece of high ground Ford had left to stand on, as lie after public lie become exposed and a picture of sordid activity, drunk driving and drug use comes into focus.
Yet when the going gets tough, it seems Toronto's mayor is comfortable employing the common political tactic of hiding behind his wife.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, Idaho congressman Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Bill Clinton — all politicians who, when the sordid details of their personal lives became public, pulled their family in front of them and used their loving, faithful wives as a shield.
Indeed, until Thursday, Renata Ford had been a ghost at city hall. She has been seen so rarely that Toronto Life once commissioned Jan Wong to write a story about it. The closest Wong got to an interview was watching someone believed to be Renata drive away in an SUV.
There have been a few sporadic moments during which Renata Ford has been dragged into the circus playing out at city hall. She travelled with the mayor to a Pan American Games event in Guadalajara, Mex., and to Austin, Tex., when Ford signed a music alliance with the local government.
She was discussed on Rob and Doug Ford's now-defunct radio program, where Doug referred to her as "the Polack." He later addressed using the ethnic slur and suggested, "Renata's going to give me a good beating."
Earlier this year, Renata spoke to the Toronto Sun and said that the felt empathy for the members of the media who were frequently posted outside her home. "I look out the window sometimes at 6:30 a.m. and I see them. Sometimes it’s raining,” she said. “They have a job to do and I know that. Everybody has a job to do.”
But the most notable public incident came in 2008, when her husband was a city councillor, after someone believed to be Renata placed a late-night call to 911 that ended with Ford being charged with assault. The charges were later dropped and, according to reports at the time, Ford said they would seek couples therapy.
Police were again called to the Ford residence on Christmas in 2011 after Renata's mother reportedly called police. No charges were laid. In fact, the Toronto Star reports that the Ford family has interacted with police as many as two dozen times over the past eight year.
Ford also has two children, eight-year-old Stephanie and five-year-old Douglas, who have occasionally been used as a shield from scrutiny. One of the more recent instances involved a photo op of Ford school supply shopping with his children, when Stephanie kicked at a stack of Staples merchandise and told invited reporters, "I hate cameras."
Even some of the most ferocious Toronto political reporters have gone out of their way to leave Ford’s family out of the spotlight. The Star’s Rosie DiManno says newspaper editors declined to run a story earlier this year involving a cab driver calling police to report an apparently inebriated Renata, with day-old wounds on her arms and face, refusing to pay her fare. It was at the height of the crack video controversy and they did not want to drag Ford’s family into the mud.
But this week, Ford decided to do that himself. It was an odd an uncomfortable decision that has left many wondering what Ford’s endgame was. And many more wondering how happy Renata was to stand next to her husband as he apologized for demeaning her with sexist remarks.
Invisible wife? Renata Ford is that no more.
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