Scandal in Canada: Toronto Mayor Denies Crack Cocaine Reports
(TORONTO) -- He’s made headlines for confronting a reporter with his fists up, calling 911 on a comedian approaching him in his driveway, flipping off a mother and her daughter who saw him talking on his cellphone while driving, and appearing drunk and being belligerent to other fans at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game.
Yet the latest allegations against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may be the biggest bombshell. Ford is alleged to have smoked crack cocaine. The purported evidence? A grainy cellphone video reporters said they viewed but that hasn't been seen by the public.
A week after the allegations surfaced, Ford called a press conference to categorically deny it all.
“The only evidence we have right now is from Gawker and two Toronto Star reporters who’ve said they’ve seen the video and they’ve described it in detail,” said Don Peat, city hall bureau chief at the Toronto Sun, in an interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour. “That’s all the evidence we have to go on because the video has not been made public.”
Nor does it seem likely to surface publicly. After Gawker’s fundraising effort to purchase the video raised $200,000, Gawker said it had lost all contact with the people who had access to it.
“I think what’s interesting is the way the mayor reacted when these reports surfaced,” said Peat. “He called it ridiculous and then went into hiding for seven days and didn’t answer any questions about it. He didn’t come out strongly denying it until a week later.”
The fallout continued. Ford fired his chief of staff and five members of his office resigned. Earlier this week, he threw a city councilor off his executive committee after she encouraged him to step aside as mayor and get help for his reported problems.
Early Thursday morning, Toronto Police conducted a series of raids, including of a building tied to the crack cocaine allegations against the mayor. According to Peat, the building was believed to be where the alleged video was being stored.
“I don't know anything about these raids,” Ford said. “I have not been in touch with the chief so your guess is as good as mine on what happened last night.”
Yet the allegations, and Ford's previous controversies, haven't seemed to make a dent in the conservative-leaning mayor’s standing among his constituents.
Last year, a judge threw him out of office in a conflict-of-interest case, but he won an appeal. Now, he's gearing up for a re-election next year.
“He’s got a good shot,” said Peat. “A lot of people are not counting him out in the next election.”
So what about a confession and apology to wipe the slate clean?
“He hasn’t come out and had that moment of apology,” said Peat. “He’s strongly denying he uses crack cocaine and strongly denying he’s addicted to crack cocaine. And he said he won’t comment on a video that he hasn’t seen or can’t prove exists."
“He’s going to put his head down and push ahead,” added Peat. “He calls it business as usual at city hall.”
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