May 22, 2013 / 8:49 PM / in 5 years

Brother defends Toronto mayor against crack-smoking allegations

TORONTO (Reuters) - Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford fired his chief of staff on Thursday, as Canada’s largest city waits for Ford to address allegations that he was caught smoking crack cocaine on camera.

Ford’s office released a statement saying that Mark Towhey, who worked for the mayor for more than two years and was chief of staff for 10 months, was no longer employed by the office.

“I am no longer chief of staff. I did not resign,” Towhey told reporters at Toronto’s City Hall as he was escorted out of the building by security guards.

The chief of staff’s departure comes one week after the Toronto Star and Gawker Media separately said they had watched a cellphone video that appears to show Ford smoking crack and making racial and homosexual slurs. Both news outlets said they had declined to pay the price asked by the tipsters to publish the video.

The mayor called the allegations of crack smoking “ridiculous” last week, but he has not given a detailed statement denying it. Ford continued to avoid the media on Thursday and was not expected to comment on the departure of his chief of staff.

Ford’s lawyer told Reuters on Monday that it was still too early to consider legal action over the allegations and that if there is a video, it needs to be made public so that Canadians can judge the content for themselves.

The mayor faces increasing pressure from both his allies and opponents to respond to the allegations.

The Toronto Sun, a right-leaning newspaper generally considered to be Ford-friendly, published an editorial on Thursday demanding the mayor either strongly deny the allegations or step down from office to seek medical help.

“Logically, the first thing a mayor falsely accused of smoking crack and consorting with drug dealers would do, would be to proclaim his innocence in no uncertain terms and sue the media who said it. Why hasn’t he?” the paper said.

Gawker has launched a campaign to raise $200,000 to buy and publish the video and has gathered pledges of more than $140,000.

Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Stacey Joyce

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