Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, ensnared by allegations he was seen on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine, ended eight days of silence on Friday by finally denying he uses crack. But his attempt to end the controversy has done nothing to mollify his critics.
"I do not use crack cocaine," Ford told a jam-packed news conference at Toronto City Hall. "Nor am I an addict of crack cocaine."
The allegations have generated such intense interest that the mayor's statement was carried live across Canada on major TV and radio news channels, as well as streamed live on the web.
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The beleaguered mayor said it was "business as usual at city hall" and gave no indication that he has any intention of leaving the job.
Ford has dodged the media for the past week ever since the U.S.-based gossip website Gawker broke the story, with a reporter claiming to have seen the video. That was followed a few hours later by a report in the Toronto Star claiming two of its reporters had seen the same video.
Ford said he could not comment on a video "that I have never seen or does not exist."
"It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I have been judged by the media without any evidence."
Ford said that the last week has taken "a great toll on my family" and that the reason he has previously refused to speak about the allegations was on advice from his solicitor, who told him "not to say a word."
On Wednesday, Ford was dumped as head coach of the Don Bosco Eagles senior football team — a role that he treasured. During the news conference he said he wished the high school team "great success for their upcoming season."
Ford refused to answer questions at the end of his short statement and left the room.
Reporters called out questions to the mayor, but he wouldn't answer.
The mayor's statement came less than an hour after the city council's executive committee — which essentially functions as a cabinet — urged Ford in an open letter, to speak publicly.
"The allegations need to be addressed openly and transparently," the letter says. "We are encouraging the mayor to address this matter so that we can focus on serving the people of Toronto."
Ford's brother, Coun. Doug Ford, also took to the podium and denied the allegations, but left without answering reporters' questions.
On Thursday, Mark Towhey, Rob Ford’s chief of staff, was fired after he urged the mayor to "get help," a source told CBC News.
Ford should resign
One critic, Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker, said that Ford no longer has any legitimacy in his role and should resign.
"I don't believe what the mayor said today, and I think that's very unfortunate. Instead of acknowledging the issue and agreeing to get some help, he just went on the attack, and I think that just makes it worse," he said.
One of Ford's supporters, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, said he didn't believe Ford had put an end to the controversy.
"Oh, I doubt that it's over," Holyday said.
Doug Ford drug allegations
On Saturday new allegations emerged involving the mayor's brothers.
The Globe and Mail says in a report that Ford's family had ties to the illicit drug trade dating back to the 1980s.
The newspaper says it carried out an 18-month investigation into the Ford family and alleges that the mayor's brothers, Coun. Doug Ford and Randy Ford, were involved in selling drugs.
The paper quotes several unnamed sources who say Doug Ford trafficked in large quantities of hashish during the 1980s.
It is also reported that a city hall staffer, hired recently by the mayor's office, is alleged to have dealt drugs with Doug Ford.
Doug Ford's lawyer, Gavin Tighe, told the newspaper the allegations are false.
When reached on Saturday morning Doug Ford was angry and said "going after family, is that the standards now of journalists?"