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Ford denies crack use, blasts media

Statement not likely to cool down ongoing flap

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addressed the crack accusations after his executive committee urged him to speak out.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addressed the crack accusations after his executive committee urged him to speak out.

TORONTO -- Mayor Rob Ford broke his weeklong silence Friday to deny he smokes crack cocaine and to lambaste the media for judging him, but his assertions seemed unlikely to douse the raging flames of scandal that have engulfed him.

In a carefully worded statement at city hall, the embattled mayor fought back against reports that he was caught on a cellphone video appearing to be smoking crack.

"I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine," Ford said in his 31/2-minute statement.

"I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist."

Saying the past week had taken a toll on his family and friends, the mayor said he had stayed silent about "this nonsense" on the advice of his lawyer.

"It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I have been judged by the media without any evidence," he said.

Ford, who took no questions before leaving city hall and wishing reporters a good weekend, made his statement an hour after his executive committee urged him in an open letter to speak "openly and transparently" to the continuing scandal.

One committee member, Peter Milczyn, reserved judgment on what effect the mayor's appearance would have but said Ford had at least done what he needed to do with his "direct statement."

"That doesn't mean that everybody's going to believe what he said," Milczyn said.

"It's not going to make the issue go away, it's not going to make the discussion in the city go away."

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, another member of the executive committee, had earlier in the day called it "urgent" the beleaguered mayor speak publicly about the festering allegations.

"The longer that goes on, the worse it gets," said Holyday, who refused to say whether he believed Ford has a substance-abuse problem.

In his statement, Ford thanked his chief of staff Mark Towhey -- who left the job abruptly on Thursday -- without explaining the parting.

Towhey has only said he did not resign, but reports cited sources as saying Ford fired him after he urged the mayor to get help.

Ford had been evading reporters and ducking in and out of city hall since soon after the American website Gawker.com and the Toronto Star reported viewing a cellphone video they said was taken by a drug dealer.

The video appeared to show Ford smoking what looked like crack cocaine, the publications said. Its authenticity has not been verified.

Gawker editor John Cook said Ford's statement did not actually refute the allegations.

"The fact that Rob Ford says he does not currently use crack cocaine has no bearing on his past behaviour," Cook wrote on his website.

"He did not say, as one who has never smoked crack cocaine might say, 'I have never smoked crack cocaine.' "

Gawker has so far raised more than $160,000 toward a goal of $200,000 it said it needed to buy the video.

Cook said Thursday the drug dealer who supposedly has the video has been unreachable in recent days, and his confidence that the deal to buy it might go through was "diminished."

Ford's only previous comments on the allegations came more than a week ago, when he called them "ridiculous."

Despite Friday's statement, Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said the mayor should "simply resign," saying Ford no longer has any legitimacy.

"The mayor had an opportunity today to say, 'Yes, give me some time to get some help,' De Baeremaeker said. "Instead, what he's done is call three reporters liars and his own chief of staff a liar."

Ford also used a substantial part of his statement to pay tribute to the high school football team he had coached for the past 10 years. The school board replaced him earlier this week.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 A21

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