TORONTO – The drug scandal involving the mayor of Canada’s largest city received international attention as police revealed they had found an alleged video that appears to show Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Toronto’s controversial mayor has drawn the attention of friends and foes since May with his abrupt dismissal of media reports carrying details of the alleged video — which he had said did not exist, while denying that he ever smoked cocaine.
But confirmation from the city’s police chief Thursday that the video was in the hands of authorities forced Ford into the spotlight, with his troubles becoming an international talking point.
“Toronto police link mayor to cocaine,” blared a headline on the front page of the New York Times website. “Toronto mayor drugs video found,” said another on the home page of the BBC website.
News outlets as far as India, Europe and Australia also carried coverage of Thursday’s bombshell revelations.
U.S. gossip website Gawker, which along with the Toronto Star newspaper was the first to report on the alleged video earlier this year, criticized Ford after the mayor said he had no reason to resign.
“Well, there’s the crack tape! But, sure, pal,” a piece on the website said.
Vanity Fair chimed in: “the most anticipated film of the year is not “Gravity” or “Blue is the Warmest Color” or even “Last Vegas”…it is an independently produced amateur documentary that purportedly shows Toronto Mayor Rob “Oh Yeah, Rob Ford” Ford smoking crack.”
Some U.S. observers compared the Ford affair to the case of former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry, who was busted smoking crack cocaine by an FBI sting in 1990.
“Marion Barry had one of the best mayors-smoking-crack videos of all time. Yes, even in terrible scandal, Canada is still decades behind the United States of America,” wrote the author of a cheeky piece on the National Journal political news website.
The article noted that Barry was re-elected as mayor after serving a sentence for drug possession.
“While the Rob Ford news is reasonably astonishing…it definitely isn’t unprecedented,” the piece said. “Canada just can’t escape its southern neighbour’s sad, sad shadow.”
Ford’s name was trending on Twitter for much of Thursday with many noting that the news had resonated far beyond Toronto.
“Rob Ford goes global!” tweeted one person. “And people say Canada never makes the news in the U.S.,” said another who linked to an American story on the scandal.
For some, the flurry around Ford was seen as a blemish on Toronto’s reputation.
“The world sees Canada as Rob Ford right now! Ashamed!!!” said one person. “Toronto is known as the city run by a crack cocaine user… #embarrassed,” tweeted another.
One woman, who had recently moved from New York to Toronto, said she only learned about the mayor on Thursday when his name dominated headlines.
“People have every right to be outraged,” Heidi Choi, 26, said in an interview. “It was kind of shocking to see.”
Ford said he couldn’t defend himself publicly as matters related to the video were before the courts.