Rob Ford saga recalls trials and tribulations of Marion Barry

A former friend of ex-Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry tells the CBC's fifth estate that he sees parallels between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's behaviour and that of Barry, who was addicted to crack cocaine and caught on video in a 1990 FBI sting operation.

The Many Lives of Marion Barry

The Fifth Estate

7 years agoVideo
the fifth estate’s Bob Mckeown investigates the story of a mayor’s disgrace and his continued political ambitions -- - a story some say is a cautionary tale for citizens of the largest city in Canada and Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford 7:21

Before Rob Ford, there was Marion Barry — Washington D.C.'s first black mayor, who swept into office in 1979 on a wave of optimism.

Barry, a former civil rights activist, was caught in an FBI sting operation in 1990 smoking crack. The footage showed the married mayor with an ex-girlfriend. At the time, crack was making inroads into many cities, causing death and destruction. Washington D.C. became the homicide capital of the country.

Prior to the video evidence, Barry had denied reports of a drug habit.

He was subsequently found guilty of cocaine possession and spent six months in jail.  Miraculously, he was re-elected as mayor in 1994 and served until 1999.

One of his closest friends, and a member of his re-election campaign, was Rock Newman — a boxing promoter and radio talk-show host.

Newman believed in Barry's reinvention and helped him get re-elected but abruptly quit the mayor's administration when Barry's drug habits resurfaced. Barry is still a politician — serving the capital city as a councillor.

Newman told the fifth estate that Rob Ford's behaviour has many similarities to that of Barry's at the time.

"That's a train wreck waiting to happen," noted Newman. "Looking at his behaviour ... hearing some of his rationale, it's like 'this dude needs help.'"

Newman said he'd encourage Ford's aides to get the Toronto mayor to "seek long-term care" otherwise, Ford is on a "very self-destructive path."


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