Reports: Toronto Mayor Caught on Tape Smoking Crack

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 17 2013 11:06 AM

Gawker and Toronto Star Say They've Seen Video of Toronto Mayor Smoking Crack

130982183
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford waves a flag at the closing ceremony of the 2011 Pan American Games.

File photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Rob Ford, Toronto's conservative mayor, has been caught on camera smoking what appears by all accounts to be crack cocaine, according to a Gawker editor and two Toronto Star reporters who claim to have seen the cellphone footage. Neither outlet has published the video for one simple reason: The man who took it is hoping to secure himself a six-figure payday for its release, a total that neither the American website nor the Canadian newspaper say they are willing to pony up. Regardless, both outlets make it clear they have no doubt about what they saw on the tape. Gawker's John Cook went live with his story first, so we'll give him the honors:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Here is what the video shows: Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, is the only person visible in the frame. Prior to the trip, I spent a lot of time looking at photographs of Rob Ford. The man in the video is Rob Ford. It is well-lit, clear. Ford is seated, in a room in a house. In one hand is a a clear, glass pipe. The kind with a big globe and two glass cylinders sticking out of it. In the other hand is a lighter. A slurred voice off-camera is ranting about Canadian politics in what sounds like an attempt to goad Ford. ... Ford, pipe in one hand and lighter in the other, is laughing, and mildly protesting at the sacrilege. He seems to keep trying to light the pipe, but keeps stopping to laugh. He is red-faced and sweaty, heaving with each breath. Finally, he finds his moment and lights up. He inhales. ... In one move, the owner stops the video and draws the device back into his pocket.
Advertisement

The Star's Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan, meanwhile, say they got to watch the full video to the end multiple times, something that allowed them to offer a more complete picture (along with a little more Canadian color):

Two Toronto Star reporters have viewed the video three times. It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches.
"I’m f---ing right-wing," Ford appears to mutter at one point. "Everyone expects me to be right-wing. I’m just supposed to be this great.…" and his voice trails off. At another point he is heard calling Trudeau a "fag." Later in the 90-second video he is asked about the football team and he appears to say (though he is mumbling), "they are just f---ing minorities."

The video, according to the Star, ends abruptly with the ringing of a cellphone, perhaps from the very one being used to record the scene. According to the paper, the ring tone startled the mayor, who opened his eyes slightly and said: "That phone better not be on."

Gawker refers to those who recorded the video and who are shopping it around as "a crew of Toronto drug dealers that service a veritable who's who of A-list" Torontonians. The Star, meanwhile, calls them "a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade."

In case allegations that the mayor of the fourth-largest city in North America smokes crack with drug dealers weren't enough to get everyone's attention, this story also has the secondary plot line of how the reporters went about gaining access to the smartphone video. Both Cook and the Star reporters say they worked with a middleman who is acting as a broker of sorts for the owner(s) of the video who want cash to leave town and head west. (Cook makes it sound like there is only one man; the Star suggests there are two.)

The asking price is currently in the six figures. Cook suggests that's a total that Gawker can't reach on its own, although he does make it clear that his organization would be willing to pay a lower price for the video, partly to prevent it from being sold back to Ford (and unsaid, but let's be honest, partly for the obvious page-view bounty it would bring with it). The Star, meanwhile, says only that it "did not pay money and did not obtain a copy of the video."

Ford denied the allegations Friday morning, according to the Globe and Mail. "It's just ridiculous," he said as he left his home, according to the newspaper. "It's another Toronto Star...", he added before trailing off, referring to Canada's largest daily newspaper and an outlet that has previously written about allegations that the mayor has a substance abuse problem.

Ford's lawyer, meanwhile, told Gawker that its report was "false and defamatory." He also later told Canadian radio: "I don't know whether or not such a video exists, but I think it would be fair for the public to see such a video and make their own conclusions."

Police, meanwhile, say they're "monitoring the situation closely."

From the way Cook tells it, the video would still be a secret if it weren't for a mixup with CNN, which he had approached through back channels to see if it wanted to help purchase the video. After a CNN reporter in Canada contacted Ford's office, Cook decided it would be best to pull the trigger last night. The Star, which was working on its own story, quickly followed suit.

To read more about the allegations and Ford, you can choose your own adventure: either go on over to Gawker, or head north to the Star.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter***

This post has been updated with additional information as it became available.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.