To the citizens of Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has these re-assuring words: “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But … do I? Am I an addict? No.”
The allegations had been floating around for months, but Ford admitted it early in November, claiming he smoked crack about a year ago in a “drunken stupor.” Ford last week told CNN’s Bill Weir that he doesn’t have an addiction.
“I’m not an addict,” Ford, 44, tells Weir. “I’m not an alcoholic. I’m not a drug addict.”
Unimpressed, the Toronto City Council has voted to remove a number of Ford’s powers, after which he accidentally knocked over a lawmaker.
“You guys have just attacked Kuwait,” Ford said a speech just prior to the vote on the special motion to gut his power. “This is going to be outright war in the next election.”
The dilemma that immediately presents itself is whether it’s better to have a mayor who’s addicted to crack, or one who has such a problem with alcohol that he gets drunk enough to smoke crack despite being a non-user. It’s not clear at this stage which of these possibilities is the case, but the mayor undoubtedly has some difficult questions to answer (repeatedly) over the coming months.
The $200,000 Video
In May, reports surfaced in the media that there was a video that showed Ford smoking crack last winter. At the time he denied the reports, and the lack of the actual footage meant that Gawker, whose staff member saw the video, resorted to a “crackstarter” campaign to raise the money to buy the clip. The mayor is supposedly pictured with drug dealers, laughing about a purposefully inflammatory statement made about Canadian politics with a glass pipe between his fingers. He kept breaking down in laughter while attempting to light the pipe. Eventually, he lights up and inhales.
Toronto Police Chief William Blair confirmed the press reports, after having recovered the video from a hard drive as part of an investigation. The footage is expected to be shown at the court case of the mayor’s driver and friend, Alexander Lisi, who is suspected of drug trafficking and was recently arrested for extortion.
In addition to apologizing profusely and claiming it would never happen again, the mayor said he wants to see the video: “I want everyone in the city to see this tape. I’d like to see this tape. I don’t even recall there being a tape and a video and I know that. I want to see the state that I was in.”
The media hasn’t been kind to Ford, with epithets such as “Mayor McCrack” being too much for reporters to resist. Ford has been mocked by late-night comedians and Saturday Night Live, and there have been calls for his resignation. It’s made people look at other evidence of Ford’s problem in a different light. Although he claims to have used only once, the explanation he provides is hardly satisfactory. Videos have surfaced of him drunkenly careening through the streets during Toronto festivals, urinating in public in the middle of the day and one in which he screams what appear to be threats toward an unknown recipient and punches the air. Does his behavior indicate that this is just a one-time problem?
Ford has no intention of stepping down. He said recenty, “I was elected to do a job and that is exactly what I’m going to continue doing,” and pointed to the October 2014 election as the people of Toronto’s chance to decide whether they want him to remain in office. Given the torrent of bad press and the uncertainty of his explanation, it seems his re-election is extremely unlikely, but the issue does present some questions about whether one can “recreationally” use a drug like crack.
Does the Mayor Need Help?
According to Ford, he smoked crack only once. As a drug, the fast-acting and quickly disappearing nature of crack cocaine makes it profoundly addictive, with users chasing the next high soon after coming down to a deeply unpleasant withdrawal. Moreover, crack cocaine destroys lives, and being unaware of that fact, especially as a public official, seems virtually impossible. However, according to the mayor it was a one-time recreational, or at least an experimental, use of crack.
It seems exceedingly unlikely that crack cocaine would be one’s first recreational drug of choice. Marijuana is often the first illicit drug people use, and it seems there would be at least a few steps—graduating to more potentially risky and addictive substances—before one decided to puff on a crack pipe. If Ford did decide to take crack as a result of some ongoing experimentation or recreational use, even if it was only once, it would evidently be the result of a deeper issue.
His story as to how he came to smoke crack isn’t exactly reassuring, and in many ways it’s just as bad as the hypothetical situation outlined above. He casually admits to being in drunken stupors regularly, and if you were a non-drug user (as can be inferred from Ford’s version of events), getting drunk enough to decide to smoke crack is not normal. The leap up to the risk level of crack-smoking would require more than just a beer or two to provide some misplaced courage; one would probably need to be royally out of it to decide that was a good idea.
Ford’s version of events paints him as a self-destructive risk-taker and potentially an alcoholic, with the alternate explanation being that he didn’t smoke crack just once, he has an ongoing problem with it. It doesn’t matter which explanation you favor, there is no real way we can conclude that Ford is doing fine.