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On May 16th, 2013, Gawker published an article about a cellphone video allegedly showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking out of a glass crack cocaine pipe. The video, which was being shopped around by a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade, was said to have been filmed in late 2012 in a well-lit room in a house in the Kingsville Village area of Toronto. Ford was also seen recorded calling himself “fucking right-wing” and calling former Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “fag.” The author, John Cook, noted he had also seen the tape along with a photo (shown below) of Ford posing with three men, one of whom was shot and killed outside of a Toronto nightclub in March. Cook revealed that the owner of the video was asking six figures for the footage. After contacting an acquaintance at CNN to see if they could help with payment, a CNN reporter in Canada called a source who had previously worked for Ford.
Many Canadians took to Twitter to comment on the story using the hashtag #TOpoli., a number of which were archived on Storify by The Star staff. According to Topsy Analytics, #TOpoli was mentioned more than 10,800 times that day, while “Rob Ford” was tweeted over 116,000 times (shown below).
In the coming days, a multitude of news outlets and internet culture blogs picked up on the story including The Chicago Sun-Times, The Huffington Post Canada, MetaFIlter, BoingBoing, the National Post, the New York Daily News and Democratic Underground. The incident also became fodder for a segment on The Daily Show and an article on Cracked.
Ford Avoids Questions
On May 17th, Mayor Ford was encountered by the press at least three times asking for a statement on the story. He called the allegations “ridiculous” and claimed that the Toronto Star was going after him in an official statement at city hall (shown below). His brother, Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, released a statement claiming the allegations were driven by “questionable reporting.”
Also on May 17th, Gawker launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign intending to raise $200,000 USD to buy the Ford video. Within two days, they raised $63,500 towards their goal, breaking $145,000 by May 23rd. The same day, Gawker revealed they had not been in contact with the owners of the video since May 19th, that no money would be taken from pledgers unless they reached the full $200,000 goal and that they would donate the full amount to a Canadian nonprofit working against substance abuse if they were unable to obtain the video.
By early morning on May 27th, Gawker’s Indiegogo campaign had surpassed its goal of $200,000 with more than 8,000 donor contributions. Despite reaching the goal, Gawker followed up with an update to the Indiegogo page stating that no further contact has been made with the people whom they believed to be in possession of Ford’s crack smoking video.
Chief of Staff Fired
On May 23rd, 2013, Ford’s Chief of Staff, Mark Towhey, was escorted out of city hall, telling reporters “I am no longer the chief of staff. I did not resign.” Though Towey claimed his departure was not related to the scandal, a source later told the CBC that he was let go for organizing an impromptu intervention for Ford with his top advisors and telling the mayor to get help. Towey claimed the mayor laughed at thoughts of going to rehab. The day he was fired, Towhey gained more than 500 new followers on Twitter (shown below), but he has not addressed the matter there as of May 24th.
Well then, to the 500+ new followers I seem to have attracted today… Hello there.What’s up? Oh, and… eat your heart out
<a href="https://twitter.com/britt_a">britt_a</a> :)</p>— towhey (towhey) May 24, 2013
Ford’s Press Conference
In the first few days following the scandal, Ford did not initially address whether or not the video was real. On May 24th, 2013, he held a press conference where said he cannot comment on a video that he had “not seen or does not exist.” He also reinforced that he does not use crack cocaine and is not addicted to it. He asserted that he had been judged by the media without any evidence. He also addressed the fact that he was let go as head coach of a Catholic high school’s football team, but a spokesperson for the Toronto Catholic District School Board claims this decision had nothing to do with the scandal.
Police Recovery of Alleged Evidence
On October 31st, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announced that the department’s forensics team has recovered a digital video clip containing the footage that is “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports,” confirming the existence of a video clip of Mayor Ford allegedly smoking from a crack cocaine pipe. The announcement came along with the release of a 500-page affidavit filed by the police for a search warrant in the case of Alexander Lisi, a friend of Mayor Ford and an alleged drug dealer, which includes pictures of Ford meeting with an alleged local drug dealer Alexander Lisi and details of 44 phone calls between the two in March 2013.
On November 3rd, Mayor Ford addressed the public about the scandal on his Sunday radio programme, during which he apologized for his drinking “mistakes” and vowed to curb his lifestyle choices, though he vehemently denied ever having smoked crack and called on the police chief to publicly release the video. The Toronto Police has yet to issue a search warrant or interview Mayor Ford in relation to the video.
On November 5th, Ford told reporters that he did smoke crack cocaine during an impromptu press conference at the Toronto city hall, adding that the incident occurred during a “drunken stupor” (shown below). Ford went on to acknowledge that he was curious to see the tape himself, that he was currently not using any illegal drugs and that he would not resign as mayor.
Also on November 5th, Vice reported that an anonymous source had informed them that he had been hired by Ford’s communications director Amin Massoudi (shown below) to hack into the Bugs3 online directory and destroy a digital copy of the crack smoking footage. The anonymous hacker claims he was unable to delete the file from the directory but provided several alleged emails between himself and Massoudi. Massoudi did not respond to Vice’s request for comment and subsequently deleted his Facebook profile.
Chicago Sun-Times – Reports: Video allegedly shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack (Updated)
Huffington Post – Rob Ford On Video Smoking From Glass Pipe: Gawker, Toronto Star
NY Daily News – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford caught in crack smoking video scandal
Democratic Underground – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in crack cocaine video scandal
The Globe and Mail – Mayor Rob Ford fires his chief of staff, Mark Towhey
Huffington Post – Doug Ford Defends Rob Ford Against Crack Allegations, Attacks Media
The National Post – Rob Ford says he won’t resign after Toronto police say they found video
The Daily Dot – How Toronto police nabbed the Rob Ford crack video