Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have apologized on his weekend radio program for excessive drinking in public, but he has yet to acknowledge the alleged homophobic and racist slurs he made on the now-infamous crack cocaine video.
On Nov 3, Ford admitted on Newstalk 1010 that he has made “mistakes” and that he has a “drinking problem,” but he made no mention of his behaviour in the video.
For many, the reported racist and homophobic comments are more troubling than the other allegations.
Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle is one of three reporters known to have seen the video. At city hall on Nov 4, she described for Xtra what she saw and heard when she screened it. She says Ford is visibly impaired before the conversation starts. The video ends with Ford “lighting up” a glass pipe filled with what appears to be crack cocaine.
“The video is about a minute and a half, and I understand it is an edited copy,” she says. “Someone off-camera starts talking about Justin Trudeau and politics, and the person off-camera says something to the effect of ‘I want to shove my foot so far up that guy’s ass it comes out the other end.’ That’s when Ford says Justin Trudeau is a fag.”
Doolittle says Ford also makes racist comments on the video. While talking about coaching football, the conversation strays incoherently back and forth between Ford and the unknown man off-camera.
“He says something to the effect of ‘Everyone expects me to be so rightwing,’” Doolittle says. “[Then], ‘fucking minorities.’”
Doolittle says many people seem to be more disturbed by the comments than the drug use the video depicts.
“What I’m hearing is that it’s the racial slurs and the slurs against the gay community, I think, when this tape comes out, that are going to be tricky to explain,” she says. “The mayor is encouraging the police to release this footage. I know what I saw. I can’t imagine that will be a good day for him when that comes out.”
In an Oct 31 press conference, Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed that police have the video, which he said is “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.”
“As a citizen of Toronto I’m disappointed. It’s an issue of significant public concern,” he added.
Despite this, Ford is refusing to step down, and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, has instead called for Blair to step down. Toronto media reported Nov 5 that the mayor's brother is accusing the police chief of bias.
Meanwhile, several city councillors have weighed in on the issue. Some say that Ford needs to resign and seek help for his addiction issues. Others, like Ford ally and executive committee member Gary Crawford, are giving Ford “the benefit of the doubt” until the video is released to the public. (Watch Xtra's video report from city hall.)
“These are pretty serious allegations,” Crawford says. “Can I make comments on that? It concerns me along with everything else. I need to see the video before I can comment.”
Ultimately, Crawford says, this is inappropriate behaviour for a mayor. At some point, even members of Ford’s executive committee need to ask, “Is this what’s best for the city?” he says.
If true, he says, the homophobic and racist comments are particularly damaging. “The mayor has to respect and represent the entire city. I understand — not where he’s coming from, if those [comments] were indeed said, he has to be sensitive to everybody,” he says.
“When he was elected, people understood he’s got some warts. He is who he is, and I would not suggest that I support that . . . We knew what we were getting when we elected him.”
Councillor Adam Vaughan says Ford’s racist and homophobic statements should be enough to remove the mayor from office.
“His homophobia has been on the record here at city hall for years,” he says. “He was elected in spite of it . . . Racism and homophobia is unacceptable for anybody, let alone an elected official and the chief magistrate of the city.”
Councillor Michael Thompson wouldn’t take questions about Ford’s homophobic and racist comments. He says that Ford needs to take “some time” and provide “clarity” to Torontonians.
“This has an impact on the city’s reputation,” he says. “We’re all troubled by these challenges . . . We are becoming the butt of many jokes, and it’s not really helpful.”
When asked by a caller on his Newstalk 1010 radio program what exactly he is apologizing for, Ford referenced two specific events when he was seen drunk and "a little out of control" in public.
"I’ve made mistakes, like, where do I begin?" Ford said. "For example, the [Taste of the Danforth street festival], that was pure stupidity. I shouldn’t have got hammered down at the Danforth. If you’re going to have a couple of drinks, you stay at home and that’s it, you don’t make a public spectacle of yourself."
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam declined to comment but did release a statement. She says she will not judge the mayor for his drug use and hopes that Ford takes a leave of absence to seek help.
“I am most saddened that the allegations of Mayor Ford making racist and homophobic remarks in this video are now confirmed,” she states. “We deserve a mayor that champions social inclusion and equity, a city leader that inspires excellence from all residents. Toronto deserves better leadership.”