Timeline: The Rob Ford crack scandal
Al Jazeera outlines key events in the controversial Canadian mayor’s alleged entanglement with drugs, gangs and escorts.
October 25, 2010
Rob Ford is elected as mayor of Toronto by a landslide, sweeping into office on a pledge to stop the “gravy train” at city hall. He wins despite two damaging revelations during the campaign: that Ford was charged a decade ago in Florida with marijuana possession and impaired driving, and that he offered to help a Toronto resident obtain OxyContin “on the street”. His popularity is largely credited to suburban anger over perceived waste of municipal tax dollars.
March 7, 2013
Cocaine and groping
Sarah Thomson, a marginal candidate in the 2010 mayoral election, accuses Ford of groping her buttocks at a political function in Toronto’s financial district. “Thought it was a friendly hello … until he suggested I should have been in Florida with him last week because his wife wasn’t there,” Thomson writes on Facebook. She later says Ford appeared to be high on cocaine at the time, describing him to a local radio DJ as “sweaty, talking quickly, out of it, arrogant”. Ford strenuously denies the allegations.
March 26, 2013
|Mayor Rob Ford has repeatedly shown up impaired in public [AP]|
Drunk and disorderly
The Toronto Star publishes a report stating that Ford was asked to leave the Toronto Garrison Ball, an event celebrating the Canadian armed forces, because organisers believed he was impaired. “It’s an open secret at city hall that the mayor has battled alcohol abuse,” the report states. “Those closest to him are concerned for his health and the impact it has on his job as mayor of Canada’s largest city.” Ford denounces the Star report as an “outright lie”.
May 16, 2013
The crack video
Gawker, a New-York-based gossip website, breaks the news that a group of drug dealers are shopping around a cellphone video of Ford smoking crack cocaine. Hours later, the Star publishes a corroborating report, saying the video clearly shows the mayor, top shirt buttons open and eyes half-closed, inhaling from a glass crack pipe. The next morning, swarmed by media outside his home and at city hall, Ford rejects the reports as “ridiculous” and blames a media vendetta.
May 24, 2013
State of denial
After more than a week of dodging questions about the crack scandal, Ford calls a press conference and issues a carefully worded statement: “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.” Ford does not answer questions on whether he has ever smoked crack, or on the origin of a widely publicised photo showing the mayor with several suspected gang members outside a Toronto crack house.
June 13, 2013
Police execute a series of pre-dawn raids in Toronto’s Dixon-Kipling neighbourhood, targeting, among other addresses, the west-end crack house where the Ford video was allegedly filmed and the apartment complex where it was allegedly stashed. Police arrest dozens of suspected gang members and say they have hobbled a US-Canada gun pipeline. Asked whether police are investigating Ford, Chief Bill Blair responds: “The right place for that information to come out is in court.”
August 9, 2013
Ford turns up at a local Toronto street festival appearing intoxicated; he is stumbling, slurring his words and telling residents he wants to “party”. Photos and videos taken by festival-goers reveal that the mayor’s vehicle is also on the scene. Ford later acknowledges he had “a few beers” at the event, but says he drove there sober and did not drive home.
October 1, 2013
|Toronto City Hall in Canada’s central Ontario province [EPA]|
‘Good guy’ arrested
The mayor’s friend and occasional driver, Sandro Lisi, is arrested on a number of charges, including drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. At a bizarre press conference held at a gas station near his home, Ford says he is “shocked” and defends Lisi as a “good guy”. Lisi was previously identified in media reports as having attempted to retrieve the crack video, although the allegations remain unproven.
October 31, 2013
Crack video found
Police announce they have retrieved the crack video from a seized hard drive, just as an Ontario court releases a raft of search-warrant documents related to Lisi’s arrest. The documents describe a plethora of clandestine meetings and phone calls between Ford and Lisi, along with allegations from a former Ford staffer that the mayor was using marijuana and possibly cocaine. Ford resists renewed calls for his resignation, telling reporters he cannot comment “because it’s before the court”.
November 5, 2013
As pressure continues to mount on Ford, he shocks reporters at a city hall scrum by offhandedly admitting to his crack use after months of denial. “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford says. “But no, do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.” Later in the afternoon, Ford calls a formal news conference to apologise and to assure residents: “These mistakes will never, ever, ever happen again.”
November 7, 2013
Another Ford video surfaces in the media, this time showing the clearly impaired mayor ranting, swearing and threatening to kill an unidentified person. “No holds barred, brother,” the mayor says in the brief clip, speaking to a person off-screen while pacing back and forth in an apparent state of agitation. “He dies or I die, brother.” Ford later acknowledges he was “extremely inebriated” at the time but does not explain what prompted his rant.
November 13, 2013
Drinking and driving
Another raft of court documents related to the Lisi case are released, revealing that former Ford staffers believed the mayor was consuming alcohol at city hall and consorting with escorts. George Christopoulos, the mayor’s former press secretary, said multiple staff members were concerned about Ford’s “tendency to drink and drive”, the documents allege. Back at city hall, Ford admits he has purchased illegal drugs while in office.
November 14, 2013
|Ford tells the media to get off his property as he leaves his home in Toronto in October 2013 [AP]|
As Ontario’s premier muses about implementing new legislation to make it possible for the city council to force Ford out of office, the mayor angrily denounces new allegations that he offered to perform oral sex on a former female staffer. “I would never do that. I’m happily married. I’ve got more than enough to eat at home,” he tells reporters, sending another wave of astonishment and outrage rippling through city hall.
November 18, 2013
Council votes to remove most of Ford’s powers, leaving him mayor in name only. After a series of votes, which pass with overwhelming majorities, Ford’s office budget is slashed, several staffers are transferred to the deputy mayor and Ford loses his ability to designate key items on the council agenda. Ford promises “outright war” in the 2014 election.
December 4, 2013
‘Doing the hezza’
Newly released police wiretap documents allege that Ford unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the crack video, offering drug dealers $5,000 and a car in exchange for the damaging cellphone footage. One of the men involved in the video scandal also claimed to have photographs of Ford “doing the hezza”, a slang term for heroin, police say. The wiretap documents suggest that drug dealers deliberately filmed and photographed Ford in compromising situations.
January 21, 2014
Ford speaks patois
Less than three months after Ford vowed to curb his problem behaviour, a new video surfaces, this time showing the mayor drunk at a local restaurant. In it, Ford appears unsteady on his feet, slurring his speech and speaking vaguely about counter-surveillance techniques. At times he slips into an accent that resembles Jamaican patois, repeatedly using the expletive “bumbaclot”.
I would never do that. I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home.
April 17, 2014
Ford officially launches his re-election bid for the October 27 vote. “I never, ever will back down,” the mayor tells supporters at a campaign event, contending he successfully “derailed the gravy train” during his four years in office. Ford does not speak directly about the crack scandal, although he thanks supporters for sticking with him through the “rocky moments”.
April 30, 2014
Three disastrous media reports land at the same time: One describes a second video purporting to show Ford smoking crack cocaine; another cites a witness who claims to have seen Ford snorting cocaine; and a third contains a leaked audio recording in which the mayor drunkenly speaks of wanting to “jam” his council colleague and 2014 mayoral rival, Karen Stintz. Ford announces he will take a leave of absence to deal with his substance-abuse problems.
May 9, 2014
The Star publishes a report detailing a “wild night” in March in which Ford allegedly spent time with his “closest felon friends” and boasted about having extramarital sex. In an audio recording from that night, which is recounted by the newspaper, Ford allegedly unleashes a tirade of racist epithets before declaring: “I’m the most racist guy around. I’m the mayor of Toronto.”
June 2, 2014
In an interview from rehab with the Toronto Sun, Ford says he “can’t wait to come back” to work. He confirms a previous statement from his brother that he will leave rehab at the end of the month and be back in Toronto for Canada Day events on July 1. “I feel good,” Ford tells the newspaper. “You are going to see a difference. You are going to see a healthier Rob Ford and I am going to win the election on October 27.”