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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Long Before Crack Cocaine Allegations, Toronto Mayor Was a Source of Controversy

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Mayor Rob Ford denies allegations that he used crack cocaine in a cellphone video viewed by reporters, via Reuters.

As our colleague Ian Austen reports, Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto angrily dismissed allegations on Friday that he had used crack cocaine in a 90-second cellphone video that is being peddled to United States and Canadian news organizations for more than $100,000.

Speaking briefly to reporters at City Hall, Mr. Ford called the allegations “ridiculous.” He declined to answer further questions about the video, which prompted at least two online crowdfunding efforts on Friday to raise money to purchase it and make it public.

A former Toronto City Council member who became mayor in December 2010, Mr. Ford has had a political career marked by ethics investigations; questions about his public temperament; and outspoken, aggressive comments, on issues ranging from the homeless to bike lanes, that have been captured on video and uploaded to YouTube.

The Toronto Star published a list of “42 remarkable moments” from his career, including his inviting women to call him so he could explain to them over coffee how politics works.

The questions about the cellphone video began on Thursday night after John Cook, the editor of Gawker, reported that he had seen it. He said he had traveled to Toronto after being contacted about the video's contents and told it was for sale. He said that he viewed the video but did not purchase it, and that it showed a man who appeared to be Mr. Ford holding a glass crack pipe.

The Toronto Star said that two of its reporters had also seen a cellphone video this month and that they, too, had concluded that Mr. Ford “appears to be smoking a crack pipe.”

In a video on The Star's Web site, the reporters, Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle, describe Mr. Ford seated in a chair in a well-lit room, appearing to be in an impaired state with a crack pipe. They said the video was being shopped around by young Somali men who wanted six figures for it. They also declined to purchase it.

Mr. Ford, who was cleared in an ethics investigation earlier this year, has been battling questions about his conduct.

In March, he was accused by Sarah Thomson, a former mayoral rival, of touching her inappropriately while they were standing together at an event, according to The Toronto Sun. Mr. Ford denied that he made such a move and told reporters, speaking about Ms. Thomson, “In my personal opinion, I've always said I don't know if she's playing with a full deck, from the first time I met her.”

Former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson claims in a CBC broadcast that Mayor Rob Ford made inappropriate comments and advances while they were both attending an event.

Mr. Ford began drawing attention for his aggressive remarks, captured in a handful of YouTube videos, more than a decade ago as a member of the Toronto City Council.

In 2007, he expressed his opposition to bike lanes by saying that, while his “heart bleeds” for cyclists who die in traffic accidents, “it's their own fault at the end of the day.”

This video shows Mr. Ford saying of bicyclists who die in traffic accidents, “It's their own fault at the end of the day.”

In a video from 2002, Mr. Ford objects angrily to a proposal to open a homeless shelter in his Toronto district, calling it “an insult” to his constituents. Instead of holding a “public meeting” on the matter, he says, “Why don't we have a public lynching?”

Rob Ford, as a member of the City Council, speaks about a proposed homeless shelter in his district.

An undated video, which was uploaded to YouTube in September 2010, appears to show Mr. Ford angrily disrupting a City Council meeting in 2003.

A video posted online appears to show Rob Ford angrily disrupting a City Council meeting.

“There's no way I am going to sit here and take this nonsense, I will tell you that right now,” Mr. Ford shouts, shortly after the council speaker opened debate on the culture budget. He then jabs his finger at another councilor and says he wants “this snitch to get back in his cage.”

He also calls the councilor a “slithering snake” and “a weasel” before his colleagues begin to clamor for him to be physically removed from the chamber. One female lawmaker can be heard on the video saying, “He has to be removed, he has to be removed, he scares me.”