Ford denies allegations about video, says newspaper 'going after me'
Published Friday, May 17, 2013 8:48AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 17, 2013 10:08PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford suggested Friday the Toronto Star has a vendetta against him and said allegations that he can be seen smoking from a glass pipe in a video are "ridiculous."
Ford's comments came as the Toronto Star published a report Friday morning saying that two reporters from the newspaper were shown an approximately 90-second video allegedly showing Ford smoking from a glass pipe. The video was recorded by a drug dealer, The Star said in its report.
Ford spoke briefly to reporters waiting outside his office at City Hall but refused to answer questions about the authenticity of the alleged video. Ford then headed to a flag-raising ceremony for PFLAG Toronto, a local equal-rights organization.
“Like I said this morning, these allegations are ridiculous. This is another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me and that’s all I have to say,” Ford said.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday was at Ford’s side as he made the brief remarks.
Earlier Friday, Ford told reporters waiting outside his home that the allegations were "absolutely not true."
The video's authenticity has not been substantiated.
Robyn Doolittle, one of the Toronto Star reporters who viewed the alleged footage of Ford, said the video was “crystal clear.”
“What we saw stunned and completely shocked us,” she said.
Doolittle said the video was of good quality, apparently shot on a smartphone, and it showed Ford in a brightly lit room.
“There was no question this was Mayor Rob Ford and he appeared to be smoking out of a crack pipe,” she said.
Doolittle said the people who showed her and her colleague Kevin Donovan the video wanted $100,000 for it, but the Star did not pay them and did not obtain a copy of the video.
Earlier Friday morning, Holyday said he still trusts and supports Ford.
Holyday was asked whether he believed Ford would be cleared of the allegations.
“I hope so. I have no knowledge, I have not seen any indication of him using any substances like this or anything else for that matter,” Holyday told reporters gathered at City Hall.
“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,” Holyday said.
The Toronto Star’s story said its reporters watched the videothree times earlier this month while sitting in the back of a car with someone who described himself as an organizer with the Somali community. The reporters met with the man, said to be acting as a broker for the person who took the video, in northwest Toronto.
After watching the video, the reporters took notes about what they saw, and both independently said they believed the person in the video was Ford. However, the newspaper said it had no way of verifying the authenticity of the footage.
According to the newspaper, the man in the video is also said to make several comments, including an exchange with someone off camera about "minorities" on the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches.
The reporters' account notes that the video ends after a cellphone is heard ringing and the man remarks, “That phone better not be on.”
The Toronto Star published its story about the video hours after another report about it was posted on the U.S. gossip news website, Gawker.
Gawker has since launched a crowdsourcing campaign in an effort to raise $200,000 to purchase the video. Nearly $28,000 was raised on the website Indiegogo by late Friday afternoon.
A lawyer representing Ford, Dennis Morris, told The Star that some details related to the video posted onGawker were "false and defamatory," and said there isn't enough context to know what the person in the video is doing.
According to The Star, Ford's chief of staff Mark Towhey hung up when phoned by the newspaper.