Toronto mayor 'crack cocaine' row: website tries to buy video
Gawker tries to raise $200,000 to buy video footage that allegedly shows Rob Ford smoking crack
TORONTO mayor Rob Ford will make his first public appearance today since he was accused of taking crack cocaine and a news website launched a campaign to raise $200,000 to buy a video of him allegedly smoking the drug.
The claims surfaced last week amid tales of cloak-and-dagger visits by journalists to see underworld sources who had a video of a man they said was Ford. The footage was filmed on an iPhone, and the owners were prepared to sell the footage for a six-figure sum.
Gawker is now trying to raise the money from the public through crowdfunding website Indiegogo and has so far managed to collect $85,000. The Rob Ford Crackstarter campaign is offering souvenirs and mementos including commemorative prints and signed Canadian flags for those who donate to a certain level.
"The owners of this video fear for their safety, and want enough money to pay for a chance to get out of Toronto and set up in a new town," explains the website. "Their fear is not entirely unwarranted," it adds.
Gawker reporter John Cook travelled to Toronto to meet the men trying to sell the video. He was driven to a housing estate where two men, who conversed in a foreign language, showed him footage of a man he claims was Ford.
"In one hand is 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," wrote Cook. "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."
The video has also been seen by reporters from the Toronto Star. Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle recounted their clandestine meeting with an underworld source who showed them the film. They described the footage as "crystal clear" and said it was of a man, who they believe to be Ford, "sitting in a chair, speaking in an incoherent and rambling manner, smoking what looks exactly like a crack pipe".
The reporters watched it three times. "We held the video within inches of our face to examine the glass pipe. It did not look like a tobacco or marijuana pipe," they said.
Ford, 43, who has been mayor of Toronto since 2010, will make his first public appearance today after what the Star calls "a long weekend of uncharacteristic silence" when he attends a meeting over plans for a casino.
"Ford will not be obliged to address the video... but some councillors are calling for him to clear the air," adds the paper.
Ford, who has a colourful past which includes an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) and marijuana possession while in Miami, has described the allegations as "ridiculous"(see video below) and accused the Toronto Star of "going after" him.