Rob Ford, Former Toronto Mayor With a Reality TV Persona, Dies at 46

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Rob Ford

The city's celebrity leader, often the butt of U.S. tabloids and late-night comedians, lost his fight with cancer.

Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto who lived a life of high political and personal drama, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, Ford's family announced in a statement. He was 46.

"With heavy hearts and profound sadness, the Ford family announces the passing of their beloved son, brother, husband, and father, councilor Rob Ford earlier today at the age of 46," his family said. "A dedicated man of the people, councilor Ford spent his life serving the citizens of Toronto," his family, which also requested privacy, added.

Ford was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto on March 18 as his family began a bedside vigil. Since February, he had been undergoing radiation, surgery and chemotherapy treatment to battle a rare, aggressive form of cancer called pleomorphic liposarcoma.

His death is only the latest headline generated by the polarizing Toronto mayor long known worldwide for his public stunts and gaffes. Ford's reality TV persona made him the constant butt of opening monologues by David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and other American talk show hosts.

Ford's alcohol and illicit drug abuse, which led to a stint in rehab, even had Jimmy Kimmel at one point grilling the Toronto mayor about his personal life during a bizarre March 2014 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in Los Angeles. Kimmel reacted Tuesday to Ford's death on his Twitter account by saying: "Condolences to the family and fans of @TorontoRobFord - an unforgettable guy who loved his job and city like few men I've met."

Ford was born May, 28, 1969, into a political family led by the late Doug Ford Sr., a self-made businessman who served as a member of the provincial legislature for four years to 1999. After serving for 10 years as a Toronto city councilor, the rotund Ford in 2010 was sworn in as the city's 64th mayor.

His many followers saw Ford as a cost-cutting mayor out to stop the "gravy train" at city hall. His critics, by contrast, accused him of tarnishing Toronto's squeaky-clean image by admitting to using crack cocaine while in office, a concession that brought him personal and political ruin.

Ford's celebrity as a troubled yet folksy politician also grew as he came under police investigation for mixing with known gang members and discussed oral sex during news conferences. He first stirred worldwide controversy after the gossip website Gawker in May 2013 released a photo in which he appeared outside a Toronto crack house with three individuals — one of whom was later gunned down outside a downtown nightclub.

The mayor first denied he used crack cocaine. Ford eventually came clean during a news conference in November 2013 outside his city hall office, where he said he had tried the illicit drug "probably in one of my drunken stupors."

Despite his infamy, Ford earned kudos for his very public battle against addictions while in office, complete with denials, apologies, failed attempts to sober up and, eventually, medical treatment. "Even though I will lose precious material, please go to rehab," Stewart told Ford at one point during his Comedy Central show. 

The mayor was eventually stripped of his political powers following his Crackergate scandal. That still didn't stop Ford campaigning for re-election, complete with his own online video series, Ford Nation. His re-election bid was abandoned, however, in October 2014 when Ford revealed he was battling cancer.

Survivors include his wife, Renata, and children, Stephanie and Douglas.

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