Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ford's brother defends him, attacks media

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TORONTO -- Rob Ford's staunchest supporter attempted Wednesday to quell the storm of controversy raging around Toronto's mayor over his alleged use of crack cocaine by citing his record in office and blasting the media.

Coun. Doug Ford, who took no questions following a statement that was mostly a stump speech, did little to address the allegations that have plagued the mayor for almost a week.

"Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous," Ford said. "And I believe him."

Stepping in front of a crush of reporters and cameras, the councillor gamely defended his brother as an "honest and hard-working man" who has dedicated himself to the service of others.

But beyond citing his brother's denials, Ford did little to douse the flames sparked by two reports last week that the mayor was caught on cellphone video that appears to show him smoking crack and making homophobic and racist remarks.

"I'm not speaking for the mayor. The mayor is my brother. I love him and he'll speak for himself," Ford said.

"When?" a reporter interjected.

"He's already addressed these allegations three times -- I don't know how much more he can say," the councillor said. In fact, the mayor has done little to refute the allegations from the U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star.

His only brief comments to date came Friday, when he called the allegations "ridiculous" and suggested the newspaper was out to get him.

Supporters, rivals and many outside observers have urged the mayor to address the allegations head on.

Police have only said they were monitoring the situation.

Ford bragged Wednesday about his brother's achievements as mayor, such as balancing the budget, before lashing out at the two publications in particular and the media in general.

He accused the media of going on a witch hunt that has ensnared the Ford family, reserving his harshest criticism for Gawker.

"To the folks at Gawker: What you are doing is disgusting and morally wrong," Ford said. "Giving away prizes to try to raise money for drug dealers and extortionists is disgraceful."

The Star and the website reported last Thursday they had seen but not obtained a video made by a west-end drug dealer who was shopping it around for six figures. Neither of the reports has been independently verified.

Gawker has been trying to raise $200,000 to buy and post the video, reaching more than $110,000 by Wednesday.

"Never has a Canadian politician or his family been targeted by the media this way," Coun. Ford said. "They zealously stalk my mother, my children. The media hides in the bushes at our cottage, as they did on the weekend."

In a blow to the mayor Wednesday, the Toronto District Catholic School Board announced it dropped Ford as volunteer coach of the Don Bosco Eagles.

Ford, who allegedly referred to the football players disparagingly in the video, has long cited the team as an example of his dedication to others.

A statement from the Catholic board makes no reference to the crack-cocaine allegations swirling around the mayor. It only says it has decided to pursue a "different direction" with a new volunteer.

"This decision was based on what is best for our students, our school and the Don Bosco community," education director Bruce Rodrigues said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2013 A13

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