Mayor Rob Ford and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday at a press conference, May 24, 2013. Photo by Ben Spurr.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is more convinced than ever that a video allegedly showing Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine is a fake, now that a reporter who claimed to have seen it says it's disappeared.
Gawker editor John Cook, who broke the salacious crack story on his U.S. website three weeks ago, revealed Tuesday that his contact with the alleged drug dealers who puportedly shot the cell phone video of has told him it's "gone." Last month, Gawker collected more than $200,000 to purchase the digital file but has since been unable to reach the owners.
Holyday believes that if the video of Mayor Ford smoking cocaine were real, it would have come out already.
"It sounds more than ever that it's not authentic," Holyday says. "I think the longer this goes on without the proof, the less credible the story is."
The deputy mayor argues that the only reason drug dealers would pass up the $200,000 offer is that the video isn't the real deal.
"Drug dealers will shoot each other for $500. What would they do for $200,000? Are they just going to walk away from it?" he asks. "I mean, this doesn't make sense."
Still, Holyday says he "definitely" wants the video to be made public, if only to prove that it's a fraud. The deputy mayor says he still has full confidence in Ford, despite the scandal that has rocked his administration and prompted an exodus of staff from his office.
Councillor James Pasternak, who has been deeply troubled by the allegations against Ford, also hopes the video comes to light. If it doesn't, he fears there will never be closure on the sensational drug allegations that have made headlines around the world.
"If this is the telltale video that will alleviate any doubt one way or the other, and it never makes it into the public domain, then the natural human characteristic will be doubt will remain," Pasternak says.
Ford himself had no reaction on Wednesday to news that the video is "gone". Asked about it after a photo-op at a Scarborough Tim Hortons, he responded only, "I've said everything I have to say."
He would not answer when a reporter asked if he had ever smoked crack.
Meanwhile, the other news outlet whose reporters claim to have seen the incendiary video will not say whether they're still in contact with the men who shot it.
Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke wouldn't answer questions put to him in an email about whether the paper is confident it will obtain the footage.
"Toronto Star reporters continue to investigate this story," he wrote. "When their reporting is complete, it will be published in the Star and on thestar.com where it will be available for all to see, including your considerable numbers of readers. I expect the reportage to take the form of several articles as the story continues to develop. That's all I can say."
In the absence of any new revelations about the drug allegations, the tumult they have caused at City Hall appears to be dying down. The pack of reporters camping outside Ford's office has dwindled this week, and on the heels of a poll that found 34 per cent of Torontonians would still vote for him, the mayor told the Toronto Sun on Tuesday he believes he can "absolutely" survive the scandal.
Pasternak says it's possible Ford will be able to finish out his term, but he believes the administration will remain tainted by the allegations unless they're cleared up one way or another.
"It creates instability. It's a cloud over the mayor," the councillor says. "But at the same time, I've never quite seen a political person survive the kind of calamities that he has endured over the last two and half years and, prior to that, as a city councillor...He has enormous endurance."