Ford could survive crack video allegations, PR expert says

Rob Ford needs to confess quickly or aggressively deny allegations of him smoking crack in order to politically survive, says a top Toronto political strategist.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday urges Rob Ford to put his side of story 'on the record'

A political strategist says Mayor Rob Ford needs to speak up, or deny, allegations that a video exists showing him smoking crack cocaine. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford needs to confess quickly or aggressively deny allegations of him smoking crack in order to politically survive, says a political strategist.

Two Toronto Star reporters, and the editor of U.S. gossip website Gawker, both say they’ve seen a video that shows the mayor of Canada’s largest city smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe.

CBC News has not seen the video and has not been able to validate any of the claims being made.

"There's no sensible reason for handling it the way they are handling it right now," said Jaime Watt, a strategist whose clients have included former attorney general Michael Bryant.

Ford has said little on the matter since the allegations surfaced last week, only calling them "ridiculous" and saying the story is another attack from the Toronto Star.

News of the alleged video showing Toronto's mayor smoking crack cocaine has garnered worldwide media attention, including jabs by late night talk show hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart.  

'Fighting back'

Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told reporters on Wednesday that Ford's lawyers had advised the mayor to stay silent for the time being.

Watt said if Ford were his client he would first ascertain whether the allegations were true and then act accordingly.

"If they're true I would say go to end-game immediately and come out and own up to it," said Watt. "Take some action to get yourself some help. I think Torontonians would be extremely supportive of the mayor if he did that."

But if they were false, Watt said he'd be "much more aggressive in fighting back."

"I would be suing everybody in sight and being much more aggressive in refuting the allegations," he said.

Attempting to do some damage control on Wednesday, Coun. Doug Ford read from a statement in which he said his brother had told him "these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous, and I believe him."

But according to Watt, the news conference wasn't advantageous at all and simply looked like one brother sticking up for the other.

"I don't think there's anything about that media availability that did anything to help put the mayor's case forward," Watt said.

Speaking with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on Thursday, Holyday said the mayor needs to respond and the "public wants something more definitive."

"The whole story is what the Toronto Star's putting forward and I think if there's another version of this, or if aspects of this aren't right, Rob Ford needs to stand up and say that," said Holyday.

'Convinced' he can survive

Holyday said he last spoke with Ford on Tuesday, and pressed the mayor to come forward and "speak to the media, give his side of the story, and at least get it on the record."

"I would hope the mayor would have a press conference of some description, take a few questions, and give an explanation — I don't know if that's going to happen," Holyday said.

On Thursday, the Toronto Sun became the fourth major newspaper in the city to publish an editorial demanding Ford come forward and speak on the issue.

Still, Watt said he was "absolutely convinced" that the mayor can survive the latest scandal if it turned out to be true.

"I think the public would be extremely supportive of him owning up to an issue, owning up to a problem and doing something about it," Watt said.  "This middle ground where the mayor seems to be, where he's not really fighting back and not yet saying that there is a problem, is a terrible place to be."