OTTAWA – A video reportedly showing embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine has apparently disappeared, sparking a backlash against a major newspaper that said it had viewed the 90-second clip.
Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, and the U.S. online news and gossip website Gawker reported the video’s existence two weeks ago but offered no proof to skeptics.
Ford has denied allegations of illicit drug use but the uproar surrounding the video has shown no signs of abating, with the launch of a police probe and a steady stream of mayoral staff departures.
The Star said it had been approached by drug dealers looking to sell the video, allegedly shot using a cellphone by a person who claimed to have supplied Ford with the drug.
The paper said it viewed the video but declined to pay for it. Gawker also reported that it had seen the footage, which reportedly showed a man resembling Ford leaning back in a chair in a room, inhaling from what appeared to be a glass crack pipe.
But late Tuesday, after raising more than $200,000 in an online campaign to offer to buy the video, Gawker said it was told by its unnamed source that the video was “gone.”
“At the end of last week, after a long silence, the video’s owner reached out to the intermediary we have been dealing with. (The owner) told (the intermediary) the video is ‘gone,’ ” Gawker editor John Cook wrote in an online post.
“It might mean that the video has been destroyed. It might mean that it has been handed over to Ford or his allies. It might mean that he intends to sell or give it to a Canadian media outlet,” Cook added. “It might mean that the Toronto police department has seized it and plans to use it as evidence in a criminal investigation.”