As It Happens

Robyn Doolittle on the release of the Rob Ford crack video

Over three years ago, Robyn Doolittle saw a video showing then-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Today, the rest of the world got to see it, too.
A still from a video of former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
When reporter Robyn Doolittle first reported on a video she had seen of then-Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine in May 2013, some accused her of distorting the truth. Now, the infamous video has been made public.

Rob Ford crack video released

5 years ago
Duration 1:17
Court case ends for former driver Sandro Lisi; evidence made public 1:17

As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch asked Doolittle about the video's release on Thursday.

Laura Lynch: Did you even want this video to be made public now?

Robyn Doolittle: I have always wished that people could see this video, and I said that many many times. It's no secret that many people didn't believe me when I said I'd seen this video, and a big part of me understands when someone is saying something like 'The mayor of the city seems to be smoking crack cocaine' that's something hard to believe unless you see it with your own eyes... So yes, I think it's important for people to see, I think it's a shame that they're seeing it now, when maybe it doesn't matter at this point. It would have been good to see earlier. But, of course, I think people should get a chance to see it. It's a huge part of [Toronto's] narrative and a huge part of his narrative.

Robyn Doolittle was one of the first people to report on the so-called crack video, and published a book in 2014 called "Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story." (CBC)

LL: It's also vindication for you. 

RD: I'd like to think that "vindication" happened years ago, when the chief of police said the video was real and as reported in the media. That's when people stopped accosting me on the street and calling me a liar. 

LL: I watched it with my own eyes today, and I listened, and he's quite incoherent. At the time, when you were reporting for The Star, you reported he called Justin Trudeau a homophobic slur, but when I was watching and listening, I can't clearly hear any of that. How did you make the decision to report that he said those things? 
A screen capture from the end of the so-called "crack video," when Rob Ford appears to suspect that he is being recorded. (CBC)

RD: Yeah, that was one of the things that was most interesting about watching the video again. We were alerted by the person who was trying to sell the video to us that he had called the now-Prime Minister a homophobic slur, and also made a disparaging remark about minorities. So as we were watching it, we don't have notepads, when we got back to the car, we did our best transcribing what we thought we heard. I think in the initial story we were pretty clear that this is what he appears to say, and when I'm rewatching it, I don't think he said the homophobic slur.

LL: So at this point, it does appear that it was an error?

RD: Yeah, I think that was not accurate. I think though, that I certainly never tried to say that I'm exactly positive about the exact quotations. 
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at "Ford Fest", a party held by the Ford family where the public is invited, at Thomson Memorial Park in Toronto, July 25, 2014. Ford died this after 18 months of treatment for a rare and aggressive cancer first diagnosed in the midst of his 2014 bid to be re-elected mayor. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

LL: Do you have any questions that remain about this whole saga still?

RD: I have many questions that relate to why our institutions in this country protect information that could have had this brought out earlier. I think that we have incredibly ridiculous access to information laws in this country and it made reporting this story extremely difficult. This would have been brought out years and years ago if it happened in the United States because journalists could've reported on the tips we were hearing at the time. But the secrecy, for no good reason, that came from officials at city hall, from police, from government, people who knew about what was happening, was unwarranted, and those are my questions. Why are we still in this situation? 

This interview has been edited and condensed. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Robyn Doolittle.


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