Toronto Mayor Ford Apologizes, Demands Video Release
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologized for his “mistakes” and pledged to curb his drinking though he has no plans to step down after police found a video in which he appears to be smoking from a crack-cocaine pipe.
“I have made mistakes and all I can do right now is apologize,” Ford said today on a weekly radio show he co-hosts with his brother, Doug Ford. “I am not resigning. I am not going away.”
Pressure is mounting for Ford, 44, to step down or take a leave as head of Canada’s biggest city after Toronto police said last week they located a video that had been the subject of media reports earlier this year. Ford is in the video and is seen inhaling from what appears to be glass crack-cocaine pipe, the Toronto Star and other media reported.
Several city councilors and at least three Toronto newspapers urged the mayor to step aside. Ford vowed today to stay on and run for re-election next year.
The mayor also plans to get a personal driver, and said he needs to curb his drinking in public. Ford admitted to being in his office at 2 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day with a half-empty bottle of brandy and that he had been drinking during a street party on Danforth Avenue in the city.
“I shouldn’t have got hammered on Danforth,” Ford said on the radio show. “I’m not going to say I’m not going to drink ever again. That’s not realistic.”
Ford also urged Toronto police to release the video, which he said he hasn’t seen.
“I want the Police Chief Bill Blair to release this video for every single person in the city to see,” Ford said on his show on Newstalk 1010. He said if police release the video he’ll host a news conference to address what’s in it. Ford’s brother Doug is also a city councilor in Toronto.
The mayor’s latest troubles began on May 16 when the Toronto Star, a newspaper Ford has said held a vendetta against him, reported it had seen a video that showed Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. U.S. website Gawker was the first to break the news on the video and raised $200,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to buy it.
Blair told reporters on Oct. 31 that Ford is in a video recovered on Oct. 29 from a hard drive that had been seized as part of a separate drug investigation.
“I think it’s fair to say the mayor does appear in the video,” Blair said. There isn’t enough evidence in the video to warrant criminal charges and police haven’t interviewed Ford, he said at the time.
After Blair’s announcement, Ford told reporters he had no reason to resign. The mayor said in May he doesn’t smoke crack cocaine and the video didn’t exist.
In response to a question today on separate radio show about whether he uses drugs or crack cocaine he said: “I’ve said ten thousand times, no,” according to an audio clip of the interview on the radio station’s website.
Police turned the video over as evidence to the courts, which alone have the authority to decide how it’s handled, Mark Pugash, a Toronto Police spokesman, said in an e-mail today.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who met with Ford yesterday to raise the concerns of council, said he supports Ford’s commitment to change and will watch to see if he lives up to it.
“It constitutes a good first step,” Kelly said in a phone interview today, declining to specify what was discussed at the meeting. “The first thing that has to be done by anyone who has problems is acknowledge them and make a commitment to solving them.”
Ford’s determination to remain mayor demonstrates his unwillingness to accept accountability, as well as his sense of entitlement and detachment from reality, Richard Leblanc, a York University associate professor of law, governance and ethics, said in a phone interview today.
“The normal lens of accountability is not there,” Leblanc said, noting it will be difficult to force Ford to leave office, absent a criminal conviction or charges. “It’s a reputational hit for the country. This has gone viral.”
The Toronto Region Board of Trade, the chamber of commerce for the city representing 12,000 members, called on Nov. 1 for the mayor to take a leave of absence and to put the city first.
“Putting Toronto first means the Mayor must be able to effectively address our city’s key priorities such as attracting investment, jobs and talent from around the world,” Carol Wilding, board chief executive officer, said in a statement. “He must be the city’s marketer-in-chief.”
Scott Brownrigg, a board spokesman, declined in an e-mail to comment further today.
A 500-page police document filed in court was released hours before the announcement by Blair. It detailed an investigation that followed up on the initial news reports about the video and showed evidence Ford met multiple times with Alexander Lisi, who has been arrested on drug and extortion charges. Ford has called Lisi a friend.
After one of their meetings, in which Lisi put a manila envelope in Ford’s black Cadillac Escalade while Ford was inside a gas station, Lisi employed “counter-surveillance maneuvers,” driving quickly and dodging through traffic, police wrote in the document.
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