TORONTO -- The mayor of Toronto is saying he smoked crack “probably a year ago” when he was in a “drunken stupor.”
Rob Ford’s admission to reporters Tuesday follows months of accusations during which the embattled mayor refused to step down. The allegations that he had been caught on video smoking crack surfaced in May.
“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford told reporters Tuesday outside his office. “There have been times when I’ve been in a drunken stupor. That’s why I want to see the tape. I want everyone in the city to see this tape. I don’t even recall there being a tape or video. I want to see the state that I was in.”
A day earlier, Ford dodged a direct question during a radio talk show appearance about whether he has ever used crack cocaine. On Sunday, he had apologized for “a lot of stupid things” and acknowledged the need to curb his drinking.
When asked by the host of The John Oakley Show if he has ever used crack, Ford responded by saying only that he was not a drug addict or an alcoholic.
Ford continued to insist that he doesn’t have an addiction when he was asked if he would be able to recognize the signs of addiction.
“If I am an addict I could not show up to work every single day and you know I cannot miss work,” he said.
The Toronto police revealed last week that they had obtained a copy of a video that appears to show the populist, conservative mayor puffing on a crack cocaine pipe.
The video was recovered from a computer hard drive during an investigation of Alexander Lisi, an associate of Ford’s who is suspected of providing him with drugs. Police have said they don’t have grounds to charge the mayor with any crime.
Ford didn’t address the contents of the video Sunday, saying he cannot comment on a tape he hasn’t seen. He pleaded with police to release the video to the public. However, police have said they cannot release the video because it is evidence in the Lisi case.
Police said the video will come out when Lisi goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Lisi is accused of threatening two alleged gang members who had been trying to sell the video to the media.
Police have said they want to talk to Ford, but his lawyer so far has declined.
Ford on Sunday acknowledged making “mistakes,” saying he was referring to being inebriated in public and texting while driving. He did not say much about the contents of the alleged video.
He said that while he’s not going to curb his drinking altogether, he’ll slow down on “the eating and drinking and everything.”
And despite calls for his resignation by council members and the public, he declined to take a leave of absence or resign.
Councilor Sarah Docuette said Monday that she doesn’t think many councilors feel like his apology is enough.
“I still feel he should step aside, look after himself, look after his family and do what’s best for him because what is best for him is what is best for the city.”
“I don’t think it (the apology) was adequate,” said Councilor Gloria Lindsay Luby. “It didn’t address what most people were very concerned about, which were the drug allegations.”
Toronto’s deputy mayor Norm Kelly said Monday that while Ford’s public apology “may not be the one that everyone had anticipated,” it was enough.
“I think that apology and the acknowledgment together, and a commitment to change his behavior is a good first step,” Kelly said. “I’ll hold him to his commitment, and hopefully time will prove that he’s made the right decision.”
All four major Toronto newspapers have called on Ford to resign. Municipal law makes no provision for his forced removal from office unless he’s convicted and jailed for a criminal offense.
Ford, whose term ends in Oct. 2014, vowed Sunday to run for re-election and the crack smoking allegations do not seem to have hurt him with his base in the Toronto suburbs.
Ford, 44, was elected three years ago largely on the strength of his support in the suburbs where the previous mayor, David Miller, was viewed as too focused on downtown city needs and reckless with tax dollars.
Ford’s approval rating even edged up slightly after police announced they recovered the video file that appears to show the mayor smoking from a crack pipe.
According to a Forum Research poll conducted on Nov. 1 - a day after the police announcement - the mayor’s approval rating rose to 44 percent from 39 percent, with 98 percent of respondents saying they were aware of the news of the recovered video.
“It is clear the people who approve of the mayor (older, low income, less educated, male, suburban) are also those who think he should not resign, whereas those who think he should resign (younger, higher income, better educated, downtown) are also those who do not approve of him,” said Forum Research in a news release.
The poll was a random telephone sampling of 1,032 Toronto voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.