Toronto mayor apologizes, won’t step down
TORONTO (AP) – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologized Sunday for being “hammered” in public and acknowledged the need to curb his drinking, but the mayor of Canada’s largest city didn’t address allegations of drug use and said he will remain in his job despite mounting pressure to resign.
“I’m going to weather this storm,” Ford said.
Ford made his remarks on his local weekly radio show at a time when he is facing growing pressure to resign after police said they had obtained a copy of a video that appears to show him puffing on a crack cocaine pipe. Ford didn’t address the contents of the tape, saying he cannot comment on a tape he hasn’t seen.
“I just got to maybe slow down on my drinking,” Ford said.
Ford acknowledged making “mistakes” and that he can’t change the past, but vowed “to ride the storm out.”
“I want to move forward but to move forward I also have to make changes in my life which I will assure I will do,” Ford said.
Ford declined to take a leave of absence or resign.
“I sincerely apologize, there’s absolutely no excuse, no one to blame but myself,” Ford said. “I am going to fight like no one has seen before to win the next election.”
Ford said he shouldn’t have been drunk in public when he appeared at the Taste of the Danforth street festival in August.
“That was pure stupidity,” Ford said. “I shouldn’t have got hammered down at the Danforth. If you are going to have a couple of drinks, you stay at home and that’s it. You don’t make a public spectacle of yourself,” Ford said.
Ford also said he got “a little out of control” after St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. A city spokeswoman released last week an incident report from city hall security guards who said they witnessed a “very intoxicated’ Ford having trouble walking and swearing at aides that day.
The incident report said that at 2:30 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, Ford “visited the security desk alone with a half empty bottle of St. Remy French Brandy.” The report states the mayor said his car had been stolen and that he wanted to call police. Security told Ford his car was at home and took the bottle from him before finding him a taxi.
Ford said you can’t be “running around with a half bottle of brandy” at City Hall at 2 a.m.
On his radio show, Ford said he would agree to have a full-time city driver, a proposal he had rejected before as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Ford, a burly populist who refers to his conservative supporters as “Ford Nation,” promised to end wasteful spending at City Hall when he became mayor 3 years ago.
Ford met Saturday with Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who had said he wanted to express the concerns of city council members after news of the video emerged. Police on Thursday announced that the video had been recovered from a computer hard drive during an investigation of an associate of the mayor suspected of providing him with drugs.
Allegations that Ford had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine surfaced in May. Two reporters with the Toronto Star and one from the U.S. website Gawker said they saw the video but did not obtain a copy. Police Chief Bill Blair told a news conference Thursday that he was “disappointed” in Ford but said the video did not provide grounds to press charges against him.
Kelly, a Ford ally, told The Associated Press that he supports the mayor’s plan of action and will encourage fellow councilors to do the same.
Kelly said he was “encouraged” by Ford’s decision to hire a driver to pick him up in the morning and take him home at night.
“In making that commitment, I think he has lifted the cloud of suspicion that his surrounded his daily behavior,” Kelly said. “At the very best he’s met the minimum requirements necessary to proceed further on a good faith basis.”
Kelly said there would be “no generosity by any of the sides” if Ford slips up again.
“I’m not saying here I’m not going to drink again. That’s not realistic,” Ford said. “Just slow down on the eating and drinking and everything.”
City Councilor Doug Ford, his brother and co-host of the show, said the mayor should stay in his basement when he drinks.
The mayor told a woman who called into his show that she was a great mother for explaining to her kids that his behavior is not acceptable, but said “I’m not resigning. I’m not going away.”
Ford drove himself to the radio station blasting the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” on his car stereo as he arrived.
All four major Toronto newspapers have called on Ford to resign. Many city councilors and The Toronto Board of Trade have also called on him to step aside.
Ford called on the police chief to release the video. “Whatever this video shows, Toronto residents deserve to see it and people need to judge for themselves what they see on this video,” Ford said.
Police said the video will come out when Ford’s associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Lisi, who was released on bail Friday morning, is accused of threatening two alleged gang members who had been trying to sell the video to the media. Police said they can’t release the video because the case is pending before the court.
The mayor is not facing any charges. However, police have said they want to talk to him, but his lawyer has so far declined the request.
Municipal law makes no provision for Ford’s forced removal from office unless he’s convicted and jailed for a criminal offense. Voters may have the final word in the October 2014 mayoral election, in which Ford has said he plans to run.