Toronto mayor in crack-pipe controversy

ROB GILLIES
Last updated 08:45 18/05/2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says allegations he used drugs are 'ridiculous' following media reports about a video which purports to show him smoking crack. Deborah Gembara reports.

Rob Ford
Reuters
MORE CONTROVERSY: Toronto mayor Rob Ford is questioned by reporters as he leaves his home amid allegations a video shows him smoking from a crack-pipe.

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A video purportedly of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack has caused an uproar in Canada. Ford on Friday called the allegations "ridiculous."

The video has not been released publicly, and there is no way to verify whether it is authentic. Reports by gossip website Gawker and the Toronto Star said it was taken by a man who claimed he had sold crack to Ford. The Associated Press hasn't seen the video.

The conservative mayor of Canada's largest city refused to take questions Friday. In brief comments outside his office, he said it was "another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. And that's all I've got to say for now."

A lawyer for the colorful, often unscripted Ford didn't respond to messages seeking comment. Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said investigators were "monitoring the situation closely."

The Star reported that two reporters watched a video that appears to show Ford, sitting in a chair, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. The Star said it did not obtain the video or pay to watch it.

The Star also reported that Ford made an anti-gay slur against the leader of the federal Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

Ford later appeared Friday at a previously scheduled ceremony marking International Day Against Homophobia.

Ford has been embroiled in controversies about his behavior since being elected in 2010, but these are the most serious allegations he's faced yet. The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that he was asked to leave a gala fundraiser for wounded Canadian soldiers because he appeared intoxicated.

During his campaign for mayor, Ford held a news conference to discuss a 1999 arrest for marijuana possession in Florida. He ultimately pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and failing to give a breath sample to police.

While in office, he has been accused of flouting conflict of interest rules and making obscene gestures at residents from his car.

Ford, a city councilor for years, once said Toronto would be better off if it didn't accept more immigrants. Half of the city's population was born outside Canada.

Toronto deputy mayor Doug Holyday questioned the authenticity of the video, saying "video can be altered" and "drug dealers can't be trusted."

Holyday said he has not spoken to Ford or his staff since the allegations surfaced, but noted he still believes in the mayor "at this point."

"I wouldn't want my career or my credibility resting on the word of drug dealers," Holyday said.

The controversy has drawn comparisons to the 1990 arrest of then-Washington Mayor Marion Barry, who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI sting operation.

Barry served six months in federal prison on a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and later won a fourth term as mayor in 1994. 

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- AP

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