What changed between Monday, May 20, just before midnight and Tuesday morning is unclear. At 11 am during a special meeting of council on the casino plan, Mayor Rob Ford was supposed to make a statement on those allegations first made on New York City website Gawker, then in the Star, that local gangsters are shopping around a video of His Worship allegedly smoking crack.
At least that's what those in the media he's used in the past to leak info were reporting. But 11 came and went with nary a word from Rofo. Later, after the casino debate had concluded, a fork put once and for all in that bad idea, Ford remained mum on the drug allegation, brushing by reporters (some scribes described it as elbowing) on his way to his office.
Perhaps he'd decided it's too late to say anything. A delayed reaction, five days after the startling news first dropped, might be read the wrong way by the public. There had been murmurs of a "select" group of media being invited to an audience with Ford to hear his side of the story. Apparently, the mayor doesn't do well when questions are hurled at him by media types, or so the spin goes.
Ford has made his calculus. He's going to try to outrun this controversy just like all the others that have dogged his two-year tenure, including accusations of conflict of interest, public drunkenness and sexual assault. It's a gamble.
But what choice does the mayor have, short of going up to Rexdale to beat the bushes for the incriminating evidence? Nuts, huh?
When stories like this one surface, there are bound to be others. There always are. They're already floating around out there, just like the stories of the mayor's shitfaced antics at all hours around town that no one wanted to believe before they became public. When you're as screwed up as Ford apparently is, the laws of synchronicity have a way of taking over.
It's a sad state of affairs aided and abetted by Ford friendlies in the media (too many to name here, but in particular on talk radio) who see a vast left-wing conspiracy every time Ford fucks up. They seem to be as much in denial as Ford and Co. Just whose interests are they protecting?
It seems that in the mayor's world, we can all continue to act like one big dysfunctional family. So let's smile and pretend none of the scandals and questions about Rob ever happened.
Mayor Ford took a somewhat circuitous route to City Hall Friday morning, hours after the news broke.
At the Ford family home in Etobicoke, the drapes were drawn; some among the clutch of reporters waiting outside had been there since 5:30 am.
Then an earthquake hit, measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale. I personally didn't feel it, but judging by the prattle about it and the latest Ford follies clogging my Twitter feed, it was hard not to think the gods must be angry at Toronto.
When the mayor finally emerged from his house just before 10 am, he did his best to appear unfazed by the news rocking headlines across the planet. He smiled. He squeaked something about the allegations being "ridiculous... just the Star again." He climbed into his Cadillac SUV and drove off, but stopped a few metres from his driveway to talk to a man whose beat-up beige compact was parked in a nearby lot.
Another guy in shades driving a Range Rover pulled up behind the mayor. Both cars followed Ford to the Tim Hortons down the street, where he parked his SUV out of sight just in case reporters were following him and picked up coffee and donuts.
It wasn't clear if they were cops. I asked. They didn't answer. I'd heard from a former Ford staffer that a police detail has been assigned to our party-like-a-rock-star mayor to make sure he gets home safely at night. But my questions to the police about that have gone unanswered.
The two men followed the mayor up Scarlett Road but peeled off before he hit a McDonald's drive-thru some 10 minutes further north. From there it was onto the 401, down the DVP and into the underground garage at City Hall, where reporters awaited outside his office to hear from the man himself.
All of which is to say that on the day his mayoralty was crashing down around his ears, Rob Ford continued on his merry way, seemingly oblivious to the maelstrom around him.
He said little to the media and did his best to pretend to go about his business. Later, he read what could be loosely described as a prepared statement. He barely glanced at the piece of paper on which it was written, waving it like a handkerchief in his right hand. Thirteen seconds and done. Another non-denial denial.
At the PFLAG flag-raising ceremony later, the mayor appeared more distracted than usual. Maybe even a little embarrassed. He tried to disappear into the nearby cement wall, but the dark cloud enveloping him was too big to ignore. It's not clear that he'd even planned to attend the flag-raising; he hadn't confirmed his attendance the day before. But it was a good idea: anything to give the appearance of business as usual.
Conspicuous by his absence in the tumult was the mayor's older brother and most vocal defender, Councillor Doug Ford. Maybe he was as floored as the rest of us. Had his faith in his little bro finally been shaken?
It's a curious thing. Talk to those close to the mayor about this scandal and you get the sense they feel betrayed.
Doug chose his words carefully when he finally made a statement on CFRB two days after the news broke. He said he'd never seen his brother "involved with anything like coke."
On Wednesday, May 22, there would be another statement from Doug, that the allegations are "untrue." That quickly turned into a dissertation on the mayor's track record, which sounded more like a political eulogy, depending on your perspective.
Coincidentally or not, Doug's statement came as pressure from fellow councillors was building for the mayor to explain himself. We are, after all, talking about alleged criminal activity.
Arguably, what Rofo does in his private time is his own business. But when that activity turns the city into a punchline for late-night U.S. talk shows and raises questions about his judgment, we've got a problem.
Until Doug came forward on Wednesday, it was Ford's deputy, Doug Holyday, who was tasked with the heavy lifting, venturing to defend the mayor to reporters camped outside his office, although he looked decidedly uncomfortable doing so. It wasn't the first time Holyday has been dispatched to put the administration's spin on Ford's folly.
His explanation for the video (if it exists, always the emphasis on that) seemed to come out of thin air: Maybe the video had been altered - fabricated even. There's no end to what those crazy kids can do with technology these days, etc. And if the crazy kids are drug dealers, how credible are they?
As empty as Holyday's defence was, some on talk radio, the medium that speaks directly to Ford's base, were quick to adopt it. The mostly respectable John Tory suggested that the "Ford" in the alleged video might be a look-alike.
Few Ford sympathizers entertained the possibility that the video is real and the mayor has some explaining to do. How is it that young men reportedly involved in the local drug trade (police say they're monitoring the situation "closely") got hold of the video in the first place?
None of the explanations Ford's defenders have offered so far meets the test of plausibility.
They don't explain what he was doing with alleged gangbangers in the photo that accompanied the Gawker story and was reproduced in the Star. One of the three men in that photo, Anthony Smith, was killed outside a King West club in March in what has been described as a gang-related slaying.
Was the photo taken the night the alleged video was filmed? Gawker editor John Cook, the author of the Ford story, is offering a no comment on that.
Ford lawyer Dennis Morris's explanation, sent in an email to Gawker, is that the mayor has his photo taken with people "daily." Except they don't usually end up dead from gunshot wounds.
Morris threatened to sue Gawker over the Smith photo in an email sent to Cook shortly after it was posted. But as of this writing, no lawsuit has been filed. He did not return NOW's call seeking clarification.
Morris, who defended the mayor on that domestic assault rap that was eventually withdrawn in 08, may to be laying the groundwork for a Rodney King defence. In that case, four L.A. cops beat the shit out of a black man on video and got away with it, so.... Morris told the Star it's "impossible" to tell what anybody may be doing in a video.
Doubt has been cast on the Star story because the paper delayed publishing it. It was posted hours after Gawker's report went live. The Star labelled its story an "exclusive," so why didn't it push the story into print sooner? Did the paper not feel it had the goods? Was it being held up while reporters on the case dug for more?
In the end, the paper thought enough of what it did have to stake its journalistic reputation on it - and to risk being sued. Fact is, there is a video out there. It has been viewed by three reporters from two different media outlets.
What if the gangster fairy tale Ford has allegedly been living has no happy ending? Will the next scene be of police escorting the mayor from his home in handcuffs? Maybe Ford's too powerful for that. But at this stage, is anything impossible?