A potentially damaging video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been shopped around to a number of media outlets, including the website Gawker and The Toronto Star, both of which published details about the footage Thursday.
Gawker’s John Cook was the first to report on the video and a startling claim about what Ford is seen smoking — allegations quickly denied by Ford’s lawyer. Hours later, after the story had made the rounds on social media, The Star published its own account of the video, which its reporters had viewed two weeks ago.
In a media scrum at City Hall that lasted about 10 seconds on Friday afternoon, Ford denied all accusations.
“These allegations are ridiculous," he said. "It’s another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me.”
In total, three reporters —two from The Star and Cook (who made the trip to Toronto to meet a man with the footage) — say the video clearly shows the Toronto mayor inhaling from a glass pipe.
The two Star reporters — Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan — independently identified the mayor in the video. The video was offered for sale but the two media organizations declined to buy it and neither outlet obtained a copy of it.
Also, neither outlet could verify the video, which was provided by an unnamed source who wanted to sell the footage for “six figures.” The seller said the video had been shot in the past six months. Each reporter viewed the footage in the back of a car.
Two online campaigns have already begun to raise funds to purchase the video. The first, supposedly organized by a Toronto man, seeks to raise $100,000 and already has $1,800 in donations. The second has been set up by Gawker with a $200,000 goal. So far, more than $2,400 has been raised.
Dennis Morris, a lawyer for Ford, contacted Gawker, taking issue with the site’s allegation about what the mayor had smoked. The lawyer’s note was posted unedited on the Gawker site:
Mayor Ford denies such took place, and if such posting occurs, it is false and defamatory, and you will be held legally accountable. In reference to the photo, you wish to publish, Mayor Ford has his photo taken daily, sometimes with others.
(The photo, provided by the tipster and published by Gawker and The Star, shows Ford with three young men. It’s unknown how the image is connected to the video.)
Separately, Morris told The Star that the Gawker story was “false and defamatory.” Morris said it’s impossible to tell what a person is doing by viewing a video: “How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking,” he told the paper.
Mark Towhey, Ford’s chief of staff, hung up on The Star when questioned about the video Thursday night.
Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told CP24 on Friday morning he still trusts Ford.
“We all know videos can be altered and we certainly know drug dealers can’t be trusted, so we don’t really know what we’re dealing with here and until we do I don’t have much to say,” he said.
Among details of the video revealed by Gawker and The Star:
- The video, less than two minutes in length, was taken on a smartphone by a person who claims to have sold the mayor drugs, both outlets report.
- Ford is clearly visible in a well-lit room, sitting in a chair. He is the only person in frame.
- Ford holds a lighter and reportedly inhales deeply from a glass pipe. Gawker describes it as “a big globe and two glass cylinders sticking out of it.” The Star says it had a “glass bowl.”
- Ford talks about Justin Trudeau, responding to a man off-camera with “Justin Trudeau’s a fag,” according to The Star account.
Story continues under gallery.
Ford has had a history of strange behaviour.
In March, former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson accused Ford of grabbing her and said that she had “never seen him so out of it.”
In February, a reportedly "intoxicated" Ford was told to leave a gala event. The Toronto Star reported that the mayor’s inner circle had been trying to get the mayor to seek treatment for alcohol abuse.
In 2010, while running for mayor, Ford was caught on tape agreeing to help a man obtain oxycontin. Ford said that he was only trying to get the man off the phone.
Back in 2006, then-councillor Ford was involved in an incident at a Toronto Maple Leafs game where he yelled insults at a couple. Ford initially denied he was at the game but later came clean and said he had too much to drink before the game.
In 1999, Ford was arrested in Florida for possession of a small amount of marijuana and pleaded guilty to not giving a breath sample.