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Toronto Mayor Says He Doesn't Smoke Crack, But Admits He Has


Today, we heard this whopper of an admission from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

MAYOR ROB FORD: Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But no, do I - am I an addict? No.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When have you smoked crack cocaine?

FORD: Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.

BLOCK: That's Toronto Mayor Rob Ford taking on the question that's been percolating for months now, after reports surfaced of a video that appears to show the mayor smoking crack. A few hours later, the mayor returned to face the cameras. He apologized. But if you were expecting him to step aside or announce that he's going to rehab, you'd be wrong.

FORD: I was elected to do a job and that's exactly what I'm going to continue to do.

BLOCK: CBC reporter Jamie Strashin was at both appearances by the mayor today at Toronto City Hall. And, Jamie, let's talk about this, this later news conference, the mayor apologized to be embarrassed the city. He said, these mistakes will never ever, ever happen again.

Mistakes, plural. Is he implying there that he actually smoked crack cocaine not once, but more than once?

JAMIE STRASHIN: Well, I think most of the issue for Mayor Rob Ford, beyond today's stunning admission that he smoked crack cocaine while being mayor - elected mayor of Canada's largest city - was that there's possibly more out there. There's lots of things swirling around the mayor of Toronto right now. There's a police investigation going on. There's talk that there may be other videos.

So I think he knows that there could be more to come. But today, just an absolutely stunning day of news at City Hall.

BLOCK: And, as we say, he's showing no sign of stepping aside. Are there many people there saying he should do exactly that, that he cannot continue to run the city of Toronto?

STRASHIN: Well, Melissa, the calls for Mayor Ford to step aside and to get some help - people want him to get some help for these substance abuse issues - is virtually uniform across Toronto City Council, which has 44 members and the mayor. It's really the mayor accusing to forge ahead alone. This is Mayor Ford's calling card; he's always been, portrayed himself as kind of a lone wolf, fighting for the little guy, fighting for the taxpayer.

But today, he's been told by virtually everyone - from his staff to members of his executive, which is like a cabinet style committee, to council members-at-large - that he needs to go away for the good of the city. But Mayor Ford, clearly, even with this tremendous revelation today, deciding that he can stay on the job. And we have an election in Toronto in a year and he said he wants to take this to the electorate.

BLOCK: You know, in listening to folks calling in on your network today, it does seem like he has a fair amount of support among the people of Toronto.

STRASHIN: Well, there's always been a 25 to 30 percent so-called Ford Nation in the city of Toronto that really likes his brand, that really rallied around him when he ran. He seemed like an outsider, someone who could upset the elites down at City Hall. But I think even those who have believed in the mayor all along are really questioning things today.

Because remember, this originally - when this story broke, the mayor said that, oh, there's no such video that even exists. And we had a stunning news conference last week with the chief of police in Toronto said, you know what, actually, there is a video, police have it, and what's been described in the media is consistent with what I'm seeing today.

And then today, the mayor had to walk the gauntlet of media in front of his office virtually since this story broke, stopped and talked to reporters for the first time in a while today, and basically said we were the question you're asking me a few months ago. Well, ask me again. And the reporter asked him if he smoked crack cocaine. And he's stunned the scrum by saying, yes, in fact, I have.

BLOCK: Jamie Strashin of the CBC, thanks so much.

STRASHIN: Thank you.

BLOCK: We were talking about the admission today by Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, that he has smoked crack cocaine, he says, in the past. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.