TORONTO, Canada: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologized on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) after admitting that he once smoked crack cocaine, but vowed to stay in office in Canada’s largest city and even seek re-election.
The stunning admission by the 44-year-old came after repeated denials, and six months after a video surfaced that allegedly showed him consuming the illicit drug.
“I know I embarrassed everyone in the city and I will be forever sorry,” he told a news conference, before adding, “I was elected to do a job, and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing.”
Earlier, he told reporters outside his office, “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.”
“Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors,” he added.
Ford said he believed the incident happened “about a year ago,” but admitted, “I don’t know exactly.”
Later at the news conference, Ford said “I know what I did was wrong.”
“I know that admitting my mistake was the right thing to do. And I feel like a thousand pounds have been lifted off of my shoulders.”
Ford, who has not been charged with a crime, said he kept his substance abuse from his family, including his brother Doug who is a Toronto city councillor, and from his staff and colleagues at city hall.
“I was embarrassed and ashamed,” he said.
He went on to say, however, that he would not resign despite mounting calls for him to step aside and seek treatment.
Instead, Ford vowed to try to regain voters’ “trust and confidence” ahead of the next municipal elections in October 2014.
“I love my job. I love this city. I love saving taxpayers money and I love being your mayor,” he said.
“For the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately. We must keep Toronto moving forward. I was elected to do a job, and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing.”
The existence of the 90-second clip at the center of the scandal was first reported in May.
The daily Toronto Star and American gossip website Gawker said they had seen the footage, which reportedly showed a man resembling Ford lolling back in a chair in a room, inhaling from what appeared to be a glass crack pipe.
But after Gawker raised more than $200,000 in an online campaign to buy the video, it said it was told by its unnamed source that the video was “gone.”
Last week, Toronto police chief Bill Blair said technicians had salvaged the deleted video and other data from a hard drive seized in an investigation of the mayor’s longtime friend Alexander Lisi for extortion, related to Lisi’s attempts to recover the video.