toronto rob ford

The Toronto Star offers its take on the Ford crack tape

Just hours after New York-based news site Gawker published a sensational story alleging its editor had seen video of Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, the Toronto Star is telling its own version of how its reporters came to view what appears to be the same astonishing tape.

The video in question is described by both publications as having been recorded in a well-lit room some time in the last six months. The narratives generally match: Rob Ford is seen, incoherent, warming a glass pipe with a cigarette lighter and briefly speaking to those around him. He calls the Don Bosco football team he coaches "fucking minorities," Liberal leader Justin Trudeau a "fag," then "inhales deeply."

Star journalists Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan say they met with a group of Somali men who are trying to find a buyer for the tape filmed some time in the last six months. The reporters saw the video three times in the parking lot of a Dixon Rd. high rise complex on May 3.

"In a video clip less than two-minutes long, an incoherent and rambling Mayor Rob Ford can clearly be seen smoking what appears to be crack cocaine," they write in the story's most damning passage.

The paper was contacted in the wake of accusations made by former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson related to a gala event the mayor attended in March where he appeared to be intoxicated, it says.

Where Ford goes from here is anyone's guess. Though no-one seems to have paid for the video - The Star denies it handed over any money in exchange for the viewing - it has been lent credence by two reputable news sources.

So far the tape remains in the hands of its owners and it appears no-one except for Gawker and the Toronto Star has seen it.

Ford's staff have refused to speak on the matter, the mayor himself has been silent, but a lawyer acting on Ford's behalf had disputed the contents of the tape. "How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?," Dennis Morris asked the paper.

We're all wondering the same thing.

UPDATE: 08:38

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is the first person close to the mayor to go on the record about the alleged drug video. He says he hasn't spoken to Rob Ford this morning and urges the public to proceed with caution, referring to a video released recently that purported to show a bird snatching a child that turned out to be fake. "They're just allegations until they are proven," he says.

UPDATE: 10:30

Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington says Rob Ford's office will release a statement later this morning regarding the allegations. Earlier today Ford was spotted leaving his Etobicoke home for City Hall. Watch this space.

UPDATE: 11:02

Rob Ford has arrived at City Hall to a throng of reporters over an hour after leaving his Etobicoke home. He said "wow, this is ridiculous" as he entered his office. Still no word on that statement or how it will be delivered.

UPDATE: 12:25

Rob Ford left his office to make the following brief statement:

"It's like I said this morning, these allegations are ridiculous. It's another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. And that's all, that's all I've got to say."

He's now reading the official proclamation at the PFLAG flag raising, flanked by reporters.

UPDATE: 13:13

Satirical Taiwanese news company Next Media Animation has given the Rob Ford scandal the (completely bonkers) digital cartoon treatment. Their version of events shows the Toronto mayor falling onto school children, running over cyclists and, yes, smoking from a glass pipe. The site is famous for its off the wall videos circulated in the immediate aftermath of major news stories.

UPDATE: 14:20

Rob Ford has left City Hall for the day. Some good news for the embattled mayor: the city has found he wasn't in breach a bylaw when he stuck magnets to parked cars during a recent Etobicoke and York Community Council meeting because "he is not in the business of being a bill distributor," reports the Globe and Mail's Sunny Dhillon.

Well, that's something I suppose.

"Have a good weekend, guys," Ford said as he left.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: BruceK/blogTO Flickr pool.

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