TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyer said on Friday his client was not smoking crack cocaine in a video that has been seen only by a few but has dominated Canadian headlines for months, and he urged the city’s police to release the video to the public.
His comments come a day after Toronto police said they had recovered a copy of a video that is “consistent” with one reportedly seen by journalists at the Toronto Star newspaper and by media blog Gawker earlier this year.
Both the Star and Gawker said the video shows the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. Ford himself has denied the existence of the video and said he does not use crack cocaine.
“All I can say is we’d love to see the video. I can’t say what it shows because only a few have seen it ... Let the public see it,” Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, told Reuters. He said he has not seen the video.
Ford said on Thursday that he couldn’t comment on the matter because the video is evidence in a separate case before the courts, adding that he would not quit his job as there was no reason for him to resign.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said on Thursday police had retrieved the video from a deleted hard drive recovered in a drug investigation.
Blair would not describe what was happening on the video, but said it showed the mayor, and that he was “disappointed” by what he saw.
Morris took issue with the police chief’s comment, and noted that Blair did not describe the video’s contents.
“They had a video with the mayor, but you have to understand what (Blair) said. He didn’t say he saw a video with the mayor smoking crack cocaine... he just said ‘consistent’ with those that have been previously reported in the press,” he said.
Ford’s brother Doug, who is also a Toronto politician and often speaks for the mayor, also called for the video to be released to the public.
“I’d like to see this video and let us judge for ourselves, let the people judge for themselves,” he said in an interview with a local radio station.
Asked about his brother’s behavior, he said: “Rob’s probably used bad judgment sometimes, but I‘m just concerned politics are playing a big part in this.”
Mayor Ford, a right-wing politician elected on a cost-cutting platform in 2010, has kept the support of much of his suburban base and the backing of right-leaning media since the reports of the video surfaced in May.
But the police confirmation of the existence of the video appears to be exacting a cost.
Several city councillors on Thursday called for the mayor to step down or take a leave of absence, and all four major Toronto daily newspapers published editorials calling for Ford to resign, including the Toronto Sun tabloid, which may be the furthest right.
Ford’s approval rating has been mostly strong through the recent scandal, although a poll released this week - but before the police revelations - showed his support falling to 39 percent from 49 percent a month earlier.
The Star and Gawker said they were shown the video, separately, by a man who wanted to sell it to them. Gawker raised funds to buy the video, but said it was unable to re-establish contact with the seller. Blair’s comments offered the first police confirmation that the video exists.
His comments followed Thursday’s release of documents detailing police evidence gathered ahead of drug-trafficking charges laid early last month against Sandro Lisi, Ford’s friend and part-time driver.
Lisi posted bail after the drug arrest, but he was rearrested on Thursday on extortion charges related to what was allegedly his search for the video following the May reports of its existence. Lisi was released on bail on Friday.
The partially redacted 474 pages of documents related to Lisi’s arrest point to numerous meetings between Ford and Lisi, and show that Ford has been under police surveillance for months.
“I think we can all feel comforted that the mayor (hasn’t used) crack cocaine over the last six months since he’s been followed day and night, virtually,” Morris said.
He said Ford still intends to run in next year’s municipal election.
With additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway