Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that he smoked crack “probably a year ago” when he was in a “drunken stupor,” but he refused to resign despite immense pressure to step aside as leader of Canada’s largest city.
Ford said he loves his job and “for the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately.”
Allegations that the mayor had been caught on video smoking crack surfaced in news reports in May. Ford initially insisted the video did not exist, sidestepped questions about whether he had ever used crack and rebuffed growing calls to leave office.
The mayor was forced to backtrack last week after police said they had obtained a copy of the video in the course of a drug investigation against a friend of Ford’s.
“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford told reporters earlier in the day. “There have been times when I’ve been in a drunken stupor. That’s why I want to see the tape. I want everyone in the city to see this tape. I don’t even recall there being a tape or video. I want to see the state that I was in.”
Later at a news conference, he said acknowledging the drug use made him feel as if he had “1,000 pounds off my back.”
Authorities have said the video, which has not been released publicly, does not constitute enough evidence to charge the mayor with a crime.
Police have said they want to talk to the mayor, but his lawyer so far has declined.
Police spokesman Mark Pugush said Ford’s acknowledgement of crack use will be passed on to investigators. Several Toronto city councilors called on Ford to step down, and Canada’s justice minister urged him to get help.
The controversy has drawn comparisons to the 1990 arrest of then-Washington Mayor Marion Barry, who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI sting operation. Barry served six months in federal prison for misdemeanor drug possession but later won a fourth term in 1994.
Earlier in the day, the 44-year-old Ford walked out of his office and asked reporters to ask him the question they first posed back in May. He then acknowledged he smoked crack but said: “Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors a year ago.”
Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor’s forced removal from office unless he is convicted and jailed for a criminal offense.
City Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of Ford’s executive committee, said he would put forward a motion asking Ford to take a leave of absence.
“My first reaction was ‘Wow.’” Minnan-Wong said. “He’s lost the moral authority to lead.”