Even John Tory’s sex scandal is boring
It’s not the like the Toronto mayor was throwing bunga bunga parties
Canada has the dullest sex scandals.
We don’t have all the details, but the revelation that Toronto Mayor John Tory had an affair with a staffer is at best mildly interesting, in a prurient, gossipy, phony-pearl clutching kind of way. And yet, Tory felt the need to resign, just four-months after being re-elected, a slap in the face to all who voted for him. Its as if he did it to prove the point that Toronto really is a world class city: see, its mayor admitted to a sex scandal. Once again, the centre of the universe crawls up its own backside, and I applaud my ongoing choice to live out west.
Not to excuse the fact that Tory, who is married, was in a position of power over the woman with whom he had an affair, the details we do know don’t exactly scream “scandal.” The woman is in her 30s and no longer works in the mayor’s office, leaving “sometime after early 2021,” as the Toronto Star put it. More to the point, there isn’t now, nor has there ever been, any hint of predatory behaviour on the part of Tory.
The relationship may have begun under inappropriate circumstances, but that shouldn’t be enough to suggest that a professional woman well past the age of youthful idiocy has been duped and is incapable of making her own decisions. Is Tory’s allure just that irresistible, even months after the two no longer worked together? Was it his floppy COVID hairstyle? There are very likely personal reasons for Tory’s decision to quit — his wife is likely to be rightly nonplussed — but from a purely political perspective, the choice is utterly baffling.
John Tory is hardly Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister known for bunga bunga parties.
In most other places, Tory’s entirely human, if flawed, behaviour would be shrugged off, if it was noticed at all. An overactive libido alone is rarely a detriment to a political career.
When former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson first ascended to the job, he flaunted his infidelity. He moved into 10 Downing Street, the PM’s official residence, with his then-girlfriend, despite still being married to his second wife. This was something of a pattern, as Johnson married wife number two just 12 days after divorcing wife number one. His multiple affairs, at least one of which produced a secret child while Johnson was mayor of London, are well documented, but did not appear to have had any effect on his political career. Maybe John Tory should make a bid to be prime minister of Canada.
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American politics is littered with sex scandals, but politicians usually only resign when they are accused of doing something illegal or face credible allegations of harassment. For example, men like Anthony Weiner, who resigned from Congress after being found to have sent sexually suggested messages to multiple women, and who was later jailed for sexting a 15-year-old girl. Or Elliot Spitzer, the former New York governor who resigned after he was caught in a prostitution scandal.
But, even those facing allegations like this don’t always quit, even if they should. Republican representative Madison Cawthorn lost his nomination ahead of the 2022 midterms, but did not resign in the face of multiple sexual harassment and misconduct accusations.
Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky was obviously questionable, but he remained highly popular with the public during the scandal, just as former president Donald Trump’s affairs, including with pornstar Stormy Daniels, weren’t exactly harmful for his career.
A more typical example is of former Ohio Congressman, the late Steven Clare LaTourette, who had an affair with his former chief of staff, who he then married after divorcing his wife. No resignation required.
There are sexual behaviours that truly merit a politician stepping down. This clearly includes committing sexual assault, but also harassment and other sexually aggressive and unwanted advances. It also includes genuinely using a position of power to coerce someone to do something they don’t want to.
John Tory is not accused of any of these behaviors.
Far from puncturing the Toronto mayor’s reputation for blandness, an older man having an affair with a younger underling is hardly shocking. Using a relatively minor indiscretion to justify throwing a city of three million people into political chaos captures the outsized importance with which Canadian politicians view themselves.
Perhaps this was inevitable for a man named Tory.