Rob Ford, the larger-than-life mayor of Toronto, has confessed to smoking crack cocaine while drunk, despite his previous insistence that he had never touched the drug. “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford told reporters at City Hall on Tuesday. “Am I an addict? No. Have I have tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”
Ford, who was elected mayor of Toronto in 2010, has refused to quit his post and says he intends to run for re-election in 2014. At a press conference this afternoon, the Mayor apologised for “embarrassing everyone in the city,” but insisted he had nothing left to hide. “I feel like 1,000 pounds have been lifted off my shoulders,” he said, close to tears. “I know what I did was wrong and admitting it was the most difficult and embarrassing thing I have ever had to do… These mistakes will never, ever, ever happen again.”
The mayor has faced repeated calls for his resignation since reports first surfaced in May of a video that shows him apparently smoking from a crack pipe. Journalists from the Toronto Star newspaper and New York-based website Gawker were both shown the clip. According to the Star, Ford appears in the footage, “obviously impaired, smoking what appears to be crack cocaine and making homophobic and racist slurs.”
Last week Toronto police revealed they had recovered the footage from a hard drive seized as part of a major drug and gang investigation. The video was mentioned in a 465-page application for a search warrant used in the arrest of 35-year-old Alexander Lisi, an alleged drug dealer who is the mayor's close friend and former driver. Lisi was charged with extortion, and Ford's name appears repeatedly in the investigation report.
The city's police chief, Bill Blair, said he was “disappointed” by the Mayor's behaviour. Ford's brother, city councillor Doug Ford, called Blair's comments “inappropriate” and “biased” and demanded the chief step down.
Police have yet to charge Ford with any offence, and local municipal law does not allow for the Mayor's forced removal from office unless he is convicted of a crime. Several Toronto City Councillors have nonetheless moved to strip Ford of some powers.
Ford, meanwhile, says he is keen to see the tape, which he believes will confirm his assertion that he was in a “drunken stupor” when he sampled the drug. “I want everyone in the city to see this tape,” he said. “I don't even recall there being a tape or video. I want to see the state that I was in.”