Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is taking a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse amid reports that two new recordings — one of unruly behaviour, the other of apparent drug use — have surfaced.
"I have decided to take a leave from campaigning and from my duties as mayor to seek immediate help," Ford said in a statement released shortly before 11 p.m. ET Wednesday.
"I have a problem with alcohol and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time."
Later in the statement, the mayor said, "I know that I need professional help."
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Ford does not plan to drop out of the election, according to his lawyer, Dennis Morris, who spoke to CBC News earlier in the evening.
Morris described the move as "an opportunity to step back, take a breath and get help" for substance abuse.
The news comes amid reports that two new recordings of Ford have surfaced. The Toronto Sun reported late Wednesday it had obtained a new and "raunchy" audio recording of Ford "ranting and swearing" in a Toronto-area bar on Monday night.
The Globe and Mail claims to have seen a second video, shot last weekend, of Ford smoking what the paper said "a self-professed drug dealer" described as crack cocaine.
The news comes amid a rocky re-election campaign in which Ford has repeatedly described himself as a changed man who has learned from the mistakes of his first term as mayor.
His leave of absence appears to leave Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly in charge, though city council already handed Kelly many of Ford’s mayoral powers last fall.
Sun posts audio with lewd remarks
The Sun posted its recording online. It was reportedly made Monday night at Sullie Gorman's, a restaurant in Toronto's west end — deep in Ford's home territory and across the street from a park named for his father, Doug Ford Sr.
On the recording, a person alleged to be the mayor is heard being unruly, complaining about his wife, Renata, and making lewd comments about mayoral contender Karen Stintz.
Ford is reported to have said, "I'd like to f--king jam her," in reference to Stintz.
Ford also complains about Ontario's political leaders' decision to fly a flag "ahead of our Canadian flag" — presumably alluding to the rainbow flag flown at the provincial legislature during the Sochi Olympics to support gay rights.
Specifically, he criticizes Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak for voting in favour of the motion to fly the flag.
"Tim Hudak comes out and says, 'Yeah, I agree with all the gays,'" Ford is heard to say. "Right there, he lost my vote."
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Ford also speaks candidly of the Toronto mayoral race, mentioning that it's really between him and Olivia Chow, a former NDP MP who resigned her federal seat to run for mayor.
The mayor even entertains the notion of losing the election.
"I'd rather lose to Olivia Chow than lose to anyone, man," he said.
Ford says if he were to lose the race, he wouldn't be "coming back."
"Once I'm done, I'm done. I'm going to California."
Remarks 'deeply offensive,' says Stintz spokesman
Stintz's campaign spokesman called Ford's remarks "deeply offensive" in a statement released Wednesday night.
'That a sitting mayor would make such shocking and bigoted remarks is disgusting.'- Karl Baldauf, spokesman for mayoral candidate Karen Stintz
"The comments released tonight by Mayor Rob Ford are deeply offensive to everyone living in Toronto. That a sitting mayor would make such shocking and bigoted remarks is disgusting," Karl Baldauf said.
He said Stintz will address the comments directly "in the coming days."
John Tory, another contender for Ford's job, said he was "relieved" to hear the mayor was getting help, but called on Ford to resign.
"Like Torontonians across the city, I am deeply disappointed by these revelations of Mayor Ford's behaviour. For the good of the city, I call on Mayor Ford to resign," Tory said in a statement.
Globe claims second crack video
Globe and Mail reporter Robyn Doolittle, who was one of the journalists who broke the original story about Ford's alleged crack use last May, and her colleague Greg McArthur reported Wednesday that they had seen a second video of Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.
The paper said the video was shot early Saturday morning in the basement of Ford's sister's house.
The Globe and Mail said the footage shows Ford smoking from a "long, copper-coloured pipe, exhaling a cloud of smoke, his right arm convulsing."
The paper said a man who resembles Alessandro "Sandro" Lisi, the mayor's friend and former driver who faces drug and extortion charges and has been accused by a former employee of Ford of facilitating the procurement of drugs for the mayor, can be seen in the background. Ford's sister, Kathy, is seen sitting next to Ford.
The Globe said a package of three video clips in total were offered for sale to the paper by a "self-professed drug dealer."
The Globe says it did not purchase the videos but did buy a series of screen grabs from them.
The U.S. gossip site Gawker, which together with the Toronto Star, for which Doolittle worked at the time, broke the news of the mayor's first crack video scandal, said Wednesday it had also been offered the video described by the Globe. The site posted a number of stills.
The Toronto Star, meanwhile, published its own report late Wednesday alleging that Ford had partied at Muzik nightclub in Toronto on two consecutive nights around St. Patrick’s Day this year and was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time.
The paper alleged that on March 15, Ford met pop star Justin Bieber in a common area of the club and became "enraged" when Bieber allegedly asked him if he had any crack cocaine. According to the Star, Ford drank in excess and went into a private bathroom for around 45 minutes, emerging "incoherent and rambling."
Ford has long denied allegations that he is addicted to drugs or alcohol, though he admits having used crack cocaine during his tenure as mayor.
The mayor also admitted he had been drinking during an incident in which he was filmed using Jamaican swear words and other profanities at a Toronto restaurant.
He vowed last year that he had given up alcohol — part of a campaign to rehabilitate his image in light of his admission.