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Toronto mayor's press advisers latest to leave

Monday - 5/27/2013, 4:49pm  ET

ROB GILLIES
Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) -- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's press advisers are the latest to leave their jobs as questions swirl about a video that purportedly shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine.

The mayor of Canada's largest city said outside his office Monday that press secretary George Christopoulos and deputy press secretary Isaac Ransom decided to leave, but he declined to say why. Ford fired his chief of staff last week.

Ford also apologized for calling journalists "a bunch of maggots" on his weekly radio show on Sunday.

"I sincerely apologize to each and every one of you," Ford told reporters. "It has been bothering me a lot."

The smoking video has not been released publicly, and its authenticity has not been verified. Reports on gossip website Gawker and in the Toronto Star said it was taken by men who said they had sold drugs to Ford. The Associated Press hasn't seen the video.

The Star reported that two journalists had watched a video that appears to show Ford inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. The Star said it did not obtain the video or pay to watch it. Gawker and the Star said the video was shown to them by a drug dealer who had been trying to sell it for a six-figure sum.

Ford has said there is no video and has called the allegations ridiculous, but he still has not said whether he has ever used crack.

Ford had refused to take questions from the media for more than a week but took a couple of questions on Monday before saying he had to leave for a meeting. On Friday, he read a statement to reporters in which he denied using or being addicted to crack cocaine.

Some critics of Ford have called on him to step down, but Ford vowed on Sunday to seek re-election next year.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, a close ally of Ford, told the AP that the mayor's office was already thin.

"I don't know what to say to the mayor at this point," Holyday said when asked what advice he has for Ford.

The mayor has been embroiled in almost weekly controversies about his behavior since being elected in 2010, but these are the most serious allegations he has yet faced. The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that the mayor was asked to leave a gala fundraiser for wounded Canadian soldiers because he appeared intoxicated.

During his campaign for mayor, Ford vehemently denied a 1999 arrest for marijuana possession in Florida, but he later acknowledged it was true after he was presented with evidence. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and failing to give a breath sample to police.

While in office, he has been accused of flouting conflict of interest rules and making obscene gestures at residents from his car.

The latest controversy has drawn comparisons to the 1990 arrest of then-Washington Mayor Marion Barry, who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI sting operation. Barry served six months in federal prison on a misdemeanor drug possession conviction but later won a fourth term as mayor in 1994.


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