TORONTO—A video purportedly of Toronto’s mayor smoking crack has caused an uproar in Canada.
The video has not been released publicly and there is no way to verify whether it is authentic. Reports by gossip website Gawker and The Toronto Star said it was taken by a man who claimed he had sold crack to Mayor Rob Ford.
Ford said when he emerged from his house on Friday that the allegations are “ridiculous.”
He later made similar comments twice outside his office, but also added that it was “another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me.”
A lawyer for Ford didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
The Star said two reporters watched a video that appears to show Ford, sitting in a chair, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. The Star said it did not obtain the video or pay to watch it.
The Star also alleges Ford made an anti-gay slur against federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Ford later appeared Friday afternoon at a previously scheduled ceremony marking International Day Against Homophobia.
The mayor of Canada’s largest city has been embroiled in constant controversies about his behavior since being elected in 2010, but these are the most serious allegations he’s faced yet. He has been accused of flouting conflict of interest rules and making obscene gestures at residents from his car, and has had high-profile shouting altercations with a Toronto Transit worker as well as a Toronto Star reporter.
Ford, a right-wing city councilor for years, promised to end wasteful spending at city hall when he became mayor, tapping into a well of voter anger with his “stop the gravy train” message. Ford also said Toronto would be better off if it didn’t accept more immigrants. Half of Toronto’s population was born outside Canada.
Toronto deputy mayor Doug Holyday questioned the authenticity of the video, saying “video can be altered” and “drug dealers can’t be trusted.”
Holyday said he has not spoken to Ford or his staff since the allegations surfaced, but noted he still believes in the mayor “at this point.”
“I’m not sure who is behind this. I wouldn’t want my career or my credibility resting on the word of drug dealers,” Holyday said.
Councilor Adam Vaughan, a frequent opponent, called Ford a “bad mayor” and said the city council has been working around his controversies since the day he was elected.
The controversy drew comparisons to the 1990 arrest of then-Washington Mayor Marion Barry, who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI sting operation. He served six months in federal prison on a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and was elected again to the D.C. Council in 1992. Barry won a fourth term as mayor in 1994. He returned to the council in 2004 and continues to represent one of the city’s poorest wards.