TORONTO – The controversial mayor of Toronto was happy to discuss drinking and drug use with the host of an American morning show on Tuesday but bristled when asked questions on the same issues by journalists in his own city.
Rob Ford told NBC’s “Today” show he has had a drink since show host Matt Lauer interviewed him in November, but the mayor said he doesn’t use drugs.
“I don’t use illegal drugs. I experimented with them, like probably a year ago, but I don’t use drugs,” said Ford. “Things are going fantastic Matt.”
Ford is running for re-election despite admitting last fall to smoking crack cocaine while in office, and being caught on video in the midst of profane rants, among other missteps.
Ford said in November that Lauer could check “five or six months” later to see how he was keeping up with his promise to change his ways.
Lauer admitted he was checking after just three months to see if Ford had kept his promise to “clean up his act.”
Ford told Lauer today he’s been going to the gym daily and has lost a few pounds.
“We’re in great shape,” the mayor said. “Right after this interview I’m dying to hit the gym.”
When Lauer asked if he was still drinking heavily on occasion, Ford said “no, not at all.”
“Have I had a drink? Yes I have, but not to the point of some episodes before,” he said. “That’s past me and we’re moving on.”
When Lauer pressed him about a video that surfaced in January showing Ford “clearly inebriated” at a restaurant, rambling in a Jamaican accent and using profanity, the mayor said he has lots of Jamaican friends and admitted to drinking on that night.
“Maybe you’re perfect, but I’m not,” he told Lauer. “We’re moving on in a positive direction.”
The mayor took a far more combative stance, however, when asked by reporters in Toronto to clarify the comments he made to Lauer.
“Don’t be jealous if I do an interview with an American station,” he told a group of journalists while leaving a news conference where he refused to answer questions on drug use.
When repeatedly asked why he was dodging the issue, Ford finally replied by saying “I already said it.”
“I said no. And you don’t understand the ‘n’ or the ‘o’,” he said on his way out. “I’m not quite sure what you don’t understand.”
Ford has said he is confident of winning the Oct. 27 municipal election.
More than 30 people have registered to run for mayor in Toronto, including former Ontario PC leader John Tory, who officially entered the race Monday.