Toronto Mayor Rob Ford called reports that he had been videotaped smoking what appears to be a crack pipe “ridiculous” on Friday in a brief statement dismissing the allegations that he may have used illegal drugs.
U.S. news site Gawker and the Toronto Star have both published stories that claim reporters were shown a video of the mayor smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe. In both cases, reporters suggest the video shows Ford heating the pipe with a lighter and inhaling.
Ford started the morning by greeting a cadre of news cameras outside his Etobicoke home claiming the accusation was ridiculous. He reiterated himself during a brief press scrum at city hall.
"Like I said this morning, these allegations are ridiculous. It is another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. That is all I have to say right now," Ford said.
But while Ford was painting this as another attack by the Toronto Star, both news groups that made the allegations against him were quick with retorts. The Star writes that while Ford called the story ridiculous, he had "not outright denied the facts" in the story.
Gawker, meantime, was more intent clarifying a Star claim that their story was an "exclusive," arguing it was published hours after Gawker posted their own account. Managing editor Tom Scocca claimed ownership of the exclusive story, posting on Twitter:
These thumbsuckers are too much. This was not a race. The Canucks had no idea how to write or publish till they had Cook's story to copy.
— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) May 17, 2013
While one-upmanship between media outlets may not be of interest to most readers, it indicates at least that this story is not isolated to accusations leveled by the Star. Neither news organization has a copy of the video because, they report, the person who possesses it is seeking to sell it for a pay day of as much as “six figures.” Gawker has started an online fundraising campaign hoping to collect $200,000 to purchase the video. The campaign has so far raised $2,725. Those in Toronto know that much of Ford's two-year tenure as mayor has been plagued by a volley of allegations, including that he had a substance abuse problem, and retorts from the mayor's office that the newspaper has a personal vendetta against him. Ford’s allies at city hall were calling for calm in the light of what they called tenuous allegations. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told the Star that the video could have been doctored and the purported source doesn’t exactly seem trustworthy. “Certainly we all know that videos can be altered and we certainly know that drug dealers can’t be trusted so we don’t know what we’re dealing with here and until we do I don’t have much to say,” Holyday told the newspaper. Coun. Adam Vaughan, a Ford opponent, refused to be distracted by the latest controversy, telling CBC News Ford is a “bad mayor because he makes bad decisions.” The network also said centrist Coun. Josh Colle suggested the mayor address the allegations in full. "There have been so many distractions, and it kind of seems to be ongoing," Colle told the network. "You're kind of almost nervous to turn on your radio or TV to see what the next news story's going to be. It's not healthy for the city, that's for sure." [ More Brew: How the Gawker and Star allegations against Ford stack up ] Former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, who alleged Ford appeared to be on cocaine during a party in March, claimed the story was vindication after she was roundly attacked for making the allegation. Ford called her a liar and demanded an apology. Thomson wrote on Twitter on Friday:
Politico, a U.S. politics blog, had taken to linking Ford to Marion Barry – the former Washington mayor who arrested by FBI after being recorded smoking crack.
Barry, gratefully, also chimed in on Ford’s situation, telling Washington City Paper that “unless he was entrapped by the government, it's not similar."
A Toronto police spokesperson told CBC News the situation was being closely monitored.