TORONTO - The U.S. website that raised $200,000 in a bid to buy an alleged video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford appearing to smoke crack cocaine now says its source has been told the video is "gone."
In a post on the Gawker website Tuesday, editor John Cook said he doesn't really know what that message from the unidentified source means, but he speculated on various scenarios for the alleged footage.
"It might mean that the video has been destroyed. It might mean that it has been handed over to Ford or his allies. It might mean that he intends to sell or give it to a Canadian media outlet. It might mean that the Toronto police department has seized it and plans to use it as evidence in a criminal investigation," he wrote.
Ford has said the alleged video does not exist and that he does not use crack cocaine, but the scandal nevertheless has plunged city hall into chaos.
"I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,'' the mayor said in a news conference a week after the allegations emerged.
"I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.''
Several of Ford's staffers — including his chief of staff — have parted company with the mayor since the scandal erupted.
And some council members have criticized the mayor for refusing to address the allegations in a substantive fashion, while Premier Kathleen Wynne has expressed concern that Toronto residents are losing confidence in their municipal leaders.
Cook and two Toronto Star reporters have said they viewed the alleged video, which they said was being shopped around by drug dealers with the help of an unidentified intermediary. The Star has said it can't vouch for its authenticity.
Both outlets went public with the allegations last month, but no video has surfaced.
Gawker said it has heard from the intermediary in the matter, who delivered a terse message Friday from the owner of the alleged video: "It's gone. Leave me alone."
The gossip website said that according to the intermediary, the media firestorm surrounding the alleged video made its owner "angry" and prompted him to go underground.
"The intermediary has claimed that a copy of the video was made and taken outside Toronto for safekeeping," though it's not clear if that's true, Cook wrote.
"We can still imagine any number of scenarios in which this video comes to light," he added.
Gawker has pledged that if it cannot purchase the alleged video, it will donate the funds raised to a Canadian charity devoted to substance abuse issues.