Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and Toronto mayor Rob Ford, right, at a September 2012 press conference announcing a sister cities agreement between the two cities. Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
So that thing we do where we say politicians who do crazy things must be smoking crack? (Thanks, Marion Barry.) Turns out that in Toronto, that may be taken a little too literally from now on. The Toronto Star, Canada's biggest newspaper, went all in with a report tonight that controversial conservative mayor Rob Ford - so controversial that Americans know who a Canadian mayor is - was allegedly caught on tape smoking crack. The Star report follows tonight's earlier report by Gawker of the same story. Both the Star and Gawker note that they were approached with offers to buy the video and that, when asked of proof, they were allowed to view it. The Star's reporters have shared their thoughts here.
The Star reporters (Donovan and Doolittle) were shown the video on the evening of Friday, May 3, in the back of a car parked in an apartment complex at Dixon Rd. near Kipling Ave. in the north end of Etobicoke. We were allowed to watch and listen to the video three times. After, both reporters separately made written notes of what they saw and heard. Both reporters, prior to watching the video, studied numerous city-hall-related videos of Ford and, to the best of the reporter's abilities, they separately concluded the man in the video was Ford.
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. "Pierre Trudeau was a faggot!" is the one phrase the lodges in my mind. 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.
According to the Star's report, other tipsters contacted them with information about Ford's alleged crack cocaine abuse. An attorney retained by Ford contacted Gawker and the Star, denying any wrongdoing on Ford's part and telling the Star, "How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?" No one - not The Star, Gawker, or anyone else who may have been contacted by the tipster - has shelled out the money to buy the video but both reporters outlets contend it's Rob Ford on the video.
Of course, the video is also being shopped around by a pair of Somali men who are "involved in the drug trade," according to the Star, so there's certainly reason for skepticism about the video. It's a big gamble by both Gakwer and The Star; if it turns out to be false, they'll both be subject to some mighty big lawsuits for defamation. Of course, if it pans out, then, well, that's one hell of a scandal in a big city.
Either way, tomorrow should be a fun day to follow Toronto on Twitter.
UPDATE: Michael Cooke, the editor in chief of The Star - and former top editor at the Sun-Times - tweeted out the front page:
UPDATE: Ford has denied the allegations.
UPDATE: And the Taiwan animation crew is on it.