07/26/2012 11:04 EDT | Updated 09/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Rob Ford's office downplays controversial photo

Mayor Rob Ford's office and Toronto's Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs have both released statements playing down a photo showing a smiling Ford with a man wearing a military uniform and alleged to be a neo-Nazi musician.

The photo was taken at the 2012 New Year's Levee at Toronto City Hall, where hundreds of people attend to greet the mayor.

Warren Kinsella, a Liberal strategist, posted the photo on his website on Thursday and wrote, "Question: why is Toronto’s mayor palsy with a former neo-Nazi icon?" Kinsella said the photo is of "John Latvis" and "the last time John and I ran into each other, he was a member of the neo-Nazi band, RAHOWA (Racial Holy War)."

The photo had originally been posted May 6 on the Facebook page of a Jon Latvis with the caption, "Me meeting with Toronto's Mayor, Rob Ford to get an endorsement for the Latvian Homeguard."

The mayor's office responded with a news release noting that the mayor met as many as 750 people at the levee.

The release said that while having his photo taken with the mayor, the man asked for a meeting and they met in March to discuss his transit concerns. The statement also said the man used a different name.

"At no time was the mayor aware of allegations that this individual had made racist, hateful or otherwise offensive comments, nor were any such comments made during his meeting with the mayor," the statement said. "Mayor Ford is a strong supporter of Toronto's Jewish community and strongly deplores anti-Semitism in any form."

Kinsella called the response "a good answer."

Later in the day, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs released a statement saying they appreciated the mayor's explanation.

“We want to thank Mayor Ford for his quick response to this matter, and reiterate the fact that we consider the Mayor a true friend of Toronto’s Jewish community," the statement said.