9 things we know — and don't know — about the Rob Ford controversy

Since the initial reports nearly two weeks ago that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was seen in a video allegedly using crack cocaine, questions have been swirling at city hall and beyond. But what do we know with any certainty about this controversy, and what questions remain?

Questions swirling after reports Toronto mayor was seen in a video allegedly using crack cocaine

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has said a video reportedly showing him smoking crack cocaine doesn't exist, but questions remain in the controversy that has been swirling around City Hall for nearly two weeks. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Since the initial reports nearly two weeks ago that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was seen in a cellphone video allegedly using crack cocaine, questions have been swirling at city hall and beyond.

Ford initially responded by saying the allegations were "ridiculous," and then held a steadfast silence — he says on the advice of a lawyer — until last Friday.

"I do not use crack cocaine," Ford told a news conference at City Hall that day. "Nor am I an addict of crack cocaine." Ford also said he doesn't believe the alleged video exists.

The next day, new allegations emerged around Ford's brother, Coun. Doug Ford, with the Globe and Mail newspaper reporting that he had been involved in selling hashish in the 1980s when he was in his teens and early 20s.

The Globe story was the result of 18 months of research and legal review, its editor said. But it did rely heavily on unnamed sources, albeit sources that senior editors at the paper were said to verify themselves.

Doug Ford vigorously denied the allegations, but his denials and the statements from the mayor have done little to quell the controversy.

So what do we know with any certainty about this controversy, and what questions remain?

What we know

Two media outlets report that they saw the video

The Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker reported on May 16 that members of their staff saw a video of Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.

Two experienced Star reporters, Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle, and Gawker editor John Cook saw the video on separate occasions on an iPhone and said it was being shopped around.

"The men were clear that they want the money for it. And we know that they have spoken with American outlets," Doolittle told CBC News on May 17. "They wanted six figures for it and we did not pay it."

Ford's chief of staff was fired

Mark Towhey, Mayor Rob Ford's chief of staff, leaves Toronto City Hall after he was fired from his post on May 23, 2013. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ford fired his chief of staff, Mark Towhey, on Thursday, May 23, one week after the first reports of the video surfaced and while pressure was mounting for the mayor to respond in some detail to the allegations.

As Towhey was being escorted out of city hall by security guards, he said: "I am no longer the chief of staff. I did not resign."

(A source close to the mayor's office told CBC News that Towhey was fired because he told Ford to "go away and get help." Towhey has refused to make any public comment on the events.) 

Two of Ford's communications staff quit

Another two members of Ford's staff left his office the following Monday, May 27. Ford said he found out that day that press secretary George Christopoulos and deputy press secretary Isaac Ransom had tendered their resignations and were leaving his office.

Sources told CBC's city hall reporter, Jamie Strashin, that the two key staff members quit "on principle." But what that principle was has not been spelled out.

Relations between the Ford family and the media are tense

Ford has repeatedly criticized the Star's reporting on issues involving him for many months now. On May 26, the mayor and his brother used their weekly radio show to deny the allegations of drug use. Rob Ford also called the media a "bunch of maggots." The following day, Ford apologized for the remark.

"I'm sure you understand this has been a very stressful week for myself and my family," Ford said. He added that the stress "doesn't justify using the terminology I did describing the media."

Rob Ford was fired as high school football coach

Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford reacts as the Don Bosco Eagles, the high school team he coached, trailed in their 28-14 defeat to Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Nov. 27, 2012. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The Toronto Catholic District School Board dumped Ford from his position as head coach of the Don Bosco Eagles senior football team on May 22.

A board spokesman told CBC News the decision was "in no way related to the current allegations. It is due to the review of his March 1 Sun News Network interview."

In the Sun interview, John Yan said, Ford painted the Don Bosco community negatively when he referred to it as "crime ridden," and the youth as "gang bangers."

During his media statement on May 24, Ford commented on his "long relationship" with Don Bosco.

"I will continue to support Don Bosco in spirit and I wish them great success for their upcoming season. These kids are phenomenal kids who have bright futures and can do anything if they put their minds to it," he said.

What questions remain

Where is the video?

For all the controversy that has been swirling, one crucial question remains: Where is the video?

The Star and Gawker have stood by their reports about the video. Ford has said it doesn't exist.

The Star's Doolittle has said she and Donovan were told there was more than one copy of the video. Gawker has said it has raised the $200,000 asking price, through crowd-sourcing, but has not been able to make contact with those who have the alleged video. It said Tuesday that it will give the sellers about a month to respond before it decides what else to do with the money; donating it to charities was the alternative.

According to published reports on May 28, someone on Ford's staff was told days ago about the potential location of the video, and passed that information along to police.

Has Rob Ford ever smoked crack cocaine?

Ford said on May 17 that he does not "use crack cocaine" and that he is not a crack cocaine addict. Questions remain as to whether he has used drugs in the past. Ford has yet to provide additional clarification.

What is the connection to Anthony Smith?

The people shopping the alleged Ford video would not provide a screen grab of what they had. But the alleged go-between did give the Toronto Star and Gawker a photo of the mayor with his arm around someone said to be Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old who was shot and killed outside a downtown nightclub in March.

CBC News has spoken to people who know the men in the picture, and confirmed they believe that the men in the photo are Smith and his friend, who was injured in that same shooting and whose face was pixellated in the original photo.

The mayor, who has a practice of coaching and working with young people, has simply said he gets his picture taken with many people.

The Toronto Star is now suggesting the cellphone with the alleged video may have belonged to Smith. Police haven't confirmed that is the case.

Just how are things going at city hall?

Ford has said it is business as usual at city hall, and city council's executive committee said in a letter May 24 that city business is continuing "without interruption."

Still, the media presence at city hall is not the usual contingent, and three staff members in Ford's office have left abruptly in the past week, meaning there is, at the very least, a different staff dynamic in his office.


  • This story has been altered to remove a name covered by a publication ban.
    Jun 02, 2013 7:00 PM ET