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Ford vows healthy comeback

But more bad press overshadows mayor's efforts

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Mayor Rob Ford told a Toronto TV station he has had a 'come to Jesus moment' and hasn't had alcohol in three weeks or done drugs recently.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Mayor Rob Ford told a Toronto TV station he has had a 'come to Jesus moment' and hasn't had alcohol in three weeks or done drugs recently.

TORONTO -- Pledging to stay sober and get in shape, Toronto's embattled mayor vowed to turn his life around Tuesday and bounce back from the latest blow to his leadership.

But his bold promises of a new, improved Rob Ford met with skepticism at city hall, a day after councillors stripped the mayor of most of his powers.

In a series of interviews with Canadian and American television networks, Ford promised people will see a positive change in him in the near future.

His assurances didn't seem to sway the man who inherited the bulk of the mayor's duties, however.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he's been listening to health experts in light of the deepening drug scandal surrounding the mayor.

"One of them that I heard this morning on TV said it's easy to go cold turkey, it's hard to stay that way," he said.

'It isn't just going to the gym and having a few shakes, he's addressing a substance-abuse problem, and I don't think you have to ask too many questions to realize it's probably alcohol' -- Dennis Morris, Rob Ford's criminal lawyer

Packing boxes filled the mayor's office Tuesday as several staff members were transferred to temporary new positions.

Ford's comeback effort was hampered by more bad news as Sun News Network called off his new television show after only one episode and newly released police documents suggested Ford may have used drugs more recently than he admitted.

Ford told local TV station CP24 in an interview he has had a "come to Jesus moment" and hasn't touched "a drop of alcohol" in three weeks, nor has he done drugs recently.

"I don't do drugs, maybe a year ago, whatever happened, happened," he added.

Ford admitted earlier this month to having smoked crack cocaine roughly a year ago in what he called one of his "drunken stupors."

But a newly released police document alleges a video appearing to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine was shot earlier this year.

"The video was filmed surreptitiously in the month of February 2013 of the mayor without his knowledge," reads the document, which is part of a drug case against Ford's friend and occasional driver Alexander (Sandro) Lisi.

Asked about the new allegation during the CP24 interview, Ford simply repeated his calls for the video to be publicly released.

The mayor has remained defiant despite a series of unprecedented votes in city council which reduced his powers to ribbon cutting.

Ford's criminal lawyer, Dennis Morris, said the mayor is spending up to two hours a day exercising, has revamped his diet and is receiving "professional support" including care from a medical doctor.

"It isn't just going to the gym and having a few shakes, he's addressing a substance-abuse problem, and I don't think you have to ask too many questions to realize it's probably alcohol," Morris told The Canadian Press.

Though the mayor has denied being addicted to drugs or alcohol, the allegations laid out in police documents are "part and parcel of indicia of having a substance-abuse challenge," Morris said.

In an interview broadcast Tuesday morning on NBC's Today, Ford was combative under questioning by host Matt Lauer, who asked him about his admitted binge drinking.

Lauer asked Ford if he'd be able to handle a terror attack or disaster in the city if he'd been out on a binge the night before -- but Ford said that could happen to anyone.

"I'm very fortunate that hasn't happened. It's very few isolated incidents that it's happened," he replied.

Ford's reputation nonetheless appears to have taken a hit, and the list of organizations distancing themselves from the beleaguered mayor grew longer Tuesday.

The cancellation of his TV show, Ford Nation, just a day after it premièred came after one of the sponsors -- Canadian Tire -- withdrew its support.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 20, 2013 A10

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