Since a duo of news outlets reported last week that they had watched a cellphone video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine, suffice it to say the chief executive of Canada’s largest city has been under an unusual amount of public scrutiny. The video remains in the hands of a few individuals who have demanded $200,000 for their prize, one the American gossip news site Gawker has been raising cash from interested online readers to purchase. But Gawker’s tipster has apparently been unable to reach the video’s owners for days now, raising the possibility that they’ve been intimidated by the mayor’s powerful (and, some have alleged, criminal) network of local friends and that it will never see the light of day.
So it makes a certain amount of sense that Ford would choose this Friday afternoon — the traditional time of week to unleash bad news and hope it gets buried by the weekend drop-off in media consumption — to respond to the charges for the first time. At a hasty press conference, he told reporters, “There has been a serious accusation from the Toronto Star that I use crack cocaine. I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I a crack cocaine addict.” He then left the scene, leaving a spokesman to contend with the horde of media outlets hungry for more. Ford’s brief comments, as Gawker’s John Cook points out, are actually not inconsistent with his having been filmed using the drug in the recent past. They suggest he is either bracing for the alleged video’s imminent release — and presumably will say he is entering treatment or something along those lines — or, alternatively, is growing increasingly confident its owners won’t actually give it to the press.
Of course, there is one Canadian pol one has to suspect would not be happy to see this saga come to an end, though he is not a rival of Ford’s for the mayoralty of Toronto. I speak, of course, of Stephen Harper, the conservative Prime Minister who faces what some are calling the worst hour of his seven years in office over a Senate expense account scandal, one that would be dominating national and international press to a much greater extent if the Ford story were not so salacious. That Ford has offered the press additional fodder and invited further parsing of his language should come as a relief to Harper, who can only pray the circus goes on a little longer.