How the Gawker and Toronto Star allegations against Mayor Rob Ford stack up

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

Canada's largest-circulation newspaper and one of America's most-read news sites have both come out claiming they have watched a video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe.

News and gossip blog Gawker broke the news late Thursday night, claiming that a staff member visited Toronto specifically to meet with a man who claims to have shot the video. The Toronto Star declared a short time later that two of their reporters had also met with a man and watched the video. An exclusive was published on the newspaper's front page today.

The allegations have not been proven and Ford allies have urged the public not to jump to conclusions. As neither organization has obtained a copy of the video, apparently being shopped with a six-figure price tag, the accuracy of the reports cannot be verified.

Both reports appear to have been written and published independent of one another and share some key similarities and some differences.

[ Related: Video of Rob Ford allegedly smoking crack is up for sale: Gawker ]

Here is a breakdown on how Gawker and the Star reports stack up against one another.

Who viewed the video?

Gawker: Editor-in-chief John Cook watched the video once, while parked outside a Toronto housing development within driving distance of the airport.

The Star: Reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan watched the video three times while parked near a high-rise complex on Dixon Road. They wrote separate accounts of what they saw.

The circumstances while watching

Gawker: Cook says he was driven to the meeting by his contact and, after delays, a man with a touchscreen device showed up and played the video. Cook was not allowed to touch the device. The two men spoke in a language “other than English.”

The Star: The reporters, without bags or cell phones, were driven to the meeting by their contact where they met a second man. That person showed the video on an iPhone, but the reporters were not allowed to hold it. The two men are said to be Somali.

The timing of the video

Gawker: Cook does not say when he watched the video, but reports that the man who possessed it claimed it was shot within the past six months.

The Star: The video was shown during a meeting on May 3 and claims the broker first contacted the newspaper following the March 26 publication of a story about the mayor’s alleged substance abuse program.

[ More Brew: Toronto Mayor declares downtown casino debate dead-ish ]

The cost of the video

Gawker: Suggests the men wanted to be paid “six figures” for a copy of the video and the men claimed a Canadian news organization had offered $40,000. They have not paid.

The Star: Suggests the men wanted “six figures for the video” and that one person had originally wanted to demand $1 million. The Star says they did not pay for the video.

Who is in the video?

Gawker: Cook claims the video shows Ford and no one else. Another voice is heard off screen. The room is well lit and Cook says he is comfortable in his belief that it was Ford.

The Star: The Star reporters also say the video shows Ford. The report says there are two others in the room but not on screen – one person asking questions and another recording the exchange. The room is said to be lit by sun beaming through a partially-opened window.

What does the video show?

Gawker: The report alleges Ford is seen holding a glass pipe in one hand and a lighter in the other. "He seems to keep trying to light the pipe, but keeps stopping to laugh. He is red-faced and sweaty, heaving with each breath. Finally, he finds his moment and lights up. He inhales."

The Star: The report alleges Ford is seen holding a glass pipe with a blackened top, and a lighter. "At one point he raises the lighter and moves it in a circle motion beneath the pipe, inhaling deeply."

What is said in the video?

Gawker: The report says a slurred voice from off-camera is ranting about politics and says "Pierre Trudeau was a faggot." Ford is said to mildly protest.

The Star: The report says a voice off-screen is ranting about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (Pierre's son) and Ford replies saying, "Justin Trudeau is a fag." The report also alleges Ford talks about the "minorities" on his football team and the expectations on him as a "right-wing" politician.

How does the video end?

Gawker: Cook claims the man holding the device shut it off and left the car.

The Star: The report says a phone can be heard ringing in the video, at which point Ford looks directly at the camera and says something like “that better not be on.”

The immediate response

Gawker: Derek Morris, a lawyer claiming to be working on behalf of Ford, called the claims “false and defamatory.”

The Star: Morris told the newspaper: “How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?”