Former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson says she's prepared to go to court to defend her allegation that Mayor Rob Ford groped and made a pass at her at a political event Thursday night.
Speaking to reporters outside City Hall Friday morning, Thomson said she has no intention of taking legal action against the mayor, but would stand by her version of events no matter what.
"If I have to go to court, I will. You have to stand up when something like that happens to you," Thomson said.
While she doesn't think that legal action is necessary, she said she felt it was important to go public with the accusation to send a message to other women who may be in similar circumstances. She's seeking an apology from Ford.
"To me, [legal action] takes it far further than I believe it needs to go. I think it needs to be a public issue, and we need to talk about this issue, and how a professional woman should be able to do business, do politicking, without having this sort of thing happen to her," said Thomson, who is CEO of Women's Post magazine.
Ford's chief of staff, Mark Towhey, told Newstalk 1010 earlier in the day that the mayor's team was "in discussions with legal counsel right now to see what an appropriate course is."
Asked if Ford intended to sue Thomson over her accusation, Towhey said, "I can't presuppose what the outcomes of those discussions might be."
Thomson unleashed a whirlwind of controversy early Friday morning after she posted a photo of herself and the mayor at a party for the Canadian Jewish Political
Action Affairs Committee.
"Thought it was a friendly hello to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the CJPAC Action Party tonight," Thomson wrote in a comment posted with the photo, "until he suggested I should have been in Florida with him last week because his wife wasn't there. Seriously wanted to punch him in the face. Happy International Women's Day!"
She later posted, "Guess where his hand was in this picture? I must go shower...."
Thomson alleges Ford grabbed her rear end while their photo was being taken.
On Friday, she said that there was no chance the allegedly inappropriate touch was accidental.
"When you squeeze, it's a little different," she said.
After news of her Facebook post spread earlier this morning, Thomson told Newstalk 1010 that she thought Ford might have a substance abuse problem.
She walked back from that statement when speaking to reporters at City Hall however, saying, "I have no idea, and I shouldn't have said it. I have no idea what was wrong with him."
But she did say that Ford was acting very differently from the man that she came to know when she ran against him in the 2010 campaign. She said that usually Ford is "a gentleman," but his behaviour was altered Thursday night.
Asked to describe how he was acting, she said, "Sloppy appearance, sweaty, saying things off the cuff all the time. Being very sexual."
The mayor's office is denying that the mayor did anything inappropriate. In a statement released Friday afternoon (full text below), Ford said the accusations were "absolutely, completely false" and that he was "shocked and dismayed" to learn about them.
He accused Thomson of fabricating the incident, which he said was especially inappropriate given that Friday is International Women's Day.
"What is... surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe," the statement said.
According to Towhey, three of the mayor's staffers were "within earshot" of Ford "the entire night" and didn't witness the exchange Thomson alleges.
"She looked happy and laughing and talking with some people that were with her," Towhey told Newstalk 1010. "She appeared to be happy and laughing in the photograph, and I know that she was happy and laughing when she walked away from that crowd."
Omar Ha-Redeye, a politically active lawyer with ties to the Liberal party, attended the event, and confirmed to NOW that after Thomson met with the mayor, she complained that he had grabbed her behind.
"I saw Sarah immediately after she left Rob Ford. So she came around the corner, and she told me about it at that time," Ha-Redeye said.
Ha-Redeye said he couldn't say whether Towhey's description of Thomson being "happy" was accurate.
"I don't know if I can gauge her in that way, I just know that she wasn't making a scene. That may just have been a political choice on her behalf, or not wanting to disrupt the event," he said.
Mayor Ford's statement:
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful event to support the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
This is an event that is attended by numerous political leaders and where I have been a guest in the past.
Early this morning, false allegations were made regarding a number of disgusting actions. I am shocked, dismayed and surprised. I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false.
What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe.
This is a day we should all take the time to reflect upon the women in our lives and in our society. It is a day when we can envision the changes we want to make in our communities to ensure that all people are equal and that violence and discrimination against women comes to an end.