Gawker's "Crackstarter" Reaches Goal

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 28 2013 10:08 AM

Gawker's New "Crackstarter" Cash Appears Increasingly Destined for Charity

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is swarmed by reporters as he enters his offices at Toronto City Hall.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is swarmed by reporters as he enters his offices at Toronto City Hall on May 17, 2013

Photo by Brett Gundlock / Reuters

Over the holiday weekend, Gawker's crowd-funded "Crackstarter" campaign crossed the $200,000 mark before its self-imposed deadline, ensuring that those who pledged the cash will have to pony it up. But, as we explained on Friday, that doesn't necessarily mean that the money will be used to buy the cellphone video of what Gawker and the Toronto Star say is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. That's because at some point after the campaign began, Gawker lost contact with the man who holds the tape, making it more or less impossible to make the handoff unless things change.

The latest word from the website offers little to suggest the deal will go down as originally planned: "We have had no further contact with the people we believe to have custody of this video since the last update," Gawker explained Monday. In the event the deal doesn't go through, Gawker has promised to donate the cash—$201,254—to a TBD Canadian nonprofit that addresses substance abuse issues.

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Ford, meanwhile, appears to have grown increasingly confident that the video in question either never existed in the first place—or doesn't exist any longer. The controversial mayor originally semi-denied the allegations, telling reporters as he left his home the morning after the story broke that the reports were "just ridiculous," and adding, "It's another Toronto Star ...," before trailing off, referring to Canada's largest daily newspaper and an outlet that has previously written about his alleged substance abuse problem. Ford then declined to address the matter any further until last Friday when he called an afternoon press conference to deny that he smokes crack. "As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have not seen, or does not exist," he said. Then later on his weekly radio show, Ford offered his strongest comments to date about the video after being asked about it by a listener: "There’s no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist."

Update: The Toronto Star, meanwhile, has the latest on the police investigation into the tape.

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