Rob Ford apologizes for remarks, says he's getting health 'support'
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE WARNING: Toronto mayor earlier blasted 'outright lies' in lewd statement
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters Thursday he is "receiving support" from health-care professionals, and apologized for his lewd remarks earlier in the day.
I am receiving support from a team of health-care professionals ... I am taking accountability and receiving advice from people with expertise," Ford, joined by his wife Renata, told a swarm of reporters at city hall shortly after noon, adding he did not wish to elaborate.
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Ford expressed regret over his remarks earlier in the day, in which he used a crude expression while denying allegations he had made sexual advances toward a former female staffer. The remarks drew vocal criticism from other city councillors.
The allegations have "pushed me over the line," he said. "I acted on complete impulse in my remarks."
"When you attack my integrity as a father and a husband, I see red," he added. He asked the media to respect his family's privacy.
Ford left without taking questions but moments later made the unusual move of coming back through the news conference area, rather than leaving through a private exit. He and his wife forced their way through the crowd, with help from a staffer who roughly shoved one cameraman aside.
Ford earlier in the day threatened legal action against former chief of staff Mark Towhey and others following the release of court documents quoting individuals alleging he has repeatedly used drugs and been seen with a woman who may have been a prostitute.
"Unfortunately, I have to take legal action," Ford said.
Ford also singled out his former press secretary, George Christopolous, former deputy press secretary Issac Ransom and a waiter at Toronto's Bier Markt, the downtown nightspot that allegedly was the scene of a much-discussed incident on St. Patrick's Day 2012.
"I have to take legal action against the waiter that said I was doing lines [of cocaine] at the Bier Markt, that is outright lies. That is not true," he said. The documents include descriptions by former staff and others of Ford's alleged behaviour.
Ford also denied that the blond woman described in the court documents is a prostitute.
"She’s a friend and it makes me sick how people are saying this," he said. "I can’t put up with it anymore."
Ford then shocked reporters when he went on to refute the alleged sexual advance.
The woman "said I wanted to eat her p—y," Ford said before cameras.
"I’ve never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home."
'Might' have driven drunk
Ford is also alleged to have driven while drunk, which he addressed, upon emerging from his office a few minutes later, saying: "I might have had some drinks and driven."
He went on to remark he is "not perfect" and disappeared into an elevator.
That admission drew a response from the Canadian branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, whose purpose is to stop impaired driving and to support victims.
"Driving under the influence of alcohol is inexcusable behaviour for any individual, let alone an elected official who is held to a higher standard and expected to set an example for the community and constituents."
Ford made the contentious remarks while wearing a Toronto Argonauts jersey, which prompted a rebuke from the CFL team.
"These latest remarks, while wearing our team's jersey, are particularly disappointing given our organization's work in the community to help youth deal with issues of bullying prevention," the team said in a statement. The mayor is well known for his love of football.
Another challenging day
Ford's behaviour appeared to make it clearer still, despite continual allegations and public embarrassment, that he has no intentions of relinquishing his post.
City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday's dramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.
He faces yet another challenging day at Toronto City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor's erratic behaviour.
Meanwhile, City of Toronto spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza said Thursday that all school trips to city hall would be relocated for several days, citing the presence of large crowds of media and others that could create a potentially unsafe environment for children.
School trips will instead be sent to the Toronto Archives due to "health concerns," DeSouza said.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also commented on the turmoil at city hall on Thursday, calling the situation with the mayor "disturbing" and saying she would consider intervening if the municipality came to the province seeking action. She added that she would be compelled first to consult with opposition party leaders before any intervention.
Ford has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..
"I can't change the past," he said in council Wednesday. "All I can do is move on and that's what I'm doing."
But apologies are not enough, according to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who says Ford has lost the "moral authority" to lead.
"It's not enough because it doesn't address the major issues in his life and the life of this council," Kelly said Thursday morning on CBC's Metro Morning.
"He must take a leave of absence in order to rehabilitate himself."
Ford has also repeatedly denied having a drug or alcohol problem.
The latest allegations contained in the new parts of the police report released Wednesday have not been proven in court. They come from police interviews with Ford staffers that were blacked out when the Alexander Lisi search warrant information was first made public on Oct. 30.
Lisi, also known as Sandro and Alessandro, is known as Ford's friend and occasional driver. He's now facing drug charges and an extortion charge.
Special meeting set
According to portions of the police report released Wednesday, the mayor was allegedly involved with a suspected prostitute and allegedly tussled physically with his staff.
Ford still chairs the powerful executive committee, but a special meeting is set for Friday, in which his council colleagues will decide whether to strip Ford of his power to appoint and fire committee chairs.
Coun. John Filion will also move to strip Ford of his emergency powers and pass them to the deputy mayor, Norm Kelly.
"The mayor does not appear to be in a state to be able to deal with an emergency right now," Filion said.
Even so, Ford will not be silenced nor will he be sidelined, pointed out Coun. Anthony Perruzza.
"He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers," he said.
Meanwhile, Ford is mostly isolated at city hall, as calls for his resignation continue to grow.
Also on Thursday, 24-hour news channel Sun TV said it is putting Ford and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, back on the air. The Fords will "pick up where they left off" after their call-in radio show recently ended its run on local radio station CFRB 1010, the channel said in a statement.
The new show, Ford Nation, will debut on Monday.
With files from CBC's Jamie Strashin