TORONTO – Toronto’s embattled mayor is denying allegations that he showed up drunk for an official function last month, dismissing the latest controversy to plague his mayoralty as “lies after lies and lies.”
An agitated Rob Ford addressed the allegations briefly at a news conference Tuesday honouring boxing champion George Chuvalo, blasting the Toronto newspaper that published them for what he called its “relentless” attacks against him.
“It’s an outright lie,” he said.
“It’s the Toronto Star going after me again and again and again.”
The Star reported Ford was asked to leave a charity gala last month over concerns he was intoxicated.
The paper said its report is based on interviews with several organizers and guests, all of whom requested anonymity.
It also said current and former members of Ford’s staff have described a longtime battle with alcohol abuse and a failed attempt to get the mayor into rehabilitation treatment.
A city councillor, Paul Ainslie, told the Star that Ford was asked to leave the gala but wouldn’t say why, while one unnamed organizer said it happened because “he seemed either drunk, high or had a medical condition.”
Ainslie did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but Ford’s spokesman George Christopoulous said the mayor “was never asked to leave the gala.”
The mayor’s supporters rallied to his defence, many of them painting him as the victim of a media witch-hunt.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told reporters no one has ever approached him with concerns over Ford drinking, and suggested the accusations are part of a broader scheme to discredit the mayor.
“There are people that do not like our agenda… We’re not going to be curtailed by those people,” he said.
“They can’t seem to stop us politically, they’re going to try to stop us in another way,” he said.
The mayor’s brother, Coun. Doug Ford, denied his sibling has a drinking or drug problem, telling Toronto radio station AM640 that he’s “never seen Rob drink at any event. Ever.”
Asked if his brother would sue the paper over the report, the councillor said a court case would only generate more media attention.
The matter stirred heated discussions online, with observers on both sides voicing their opinions on Twitter.
“After all the left has put Ford through, I can see why he would drink. Also if true he should be helped,” one wrote.
“Mayor Rob Ford keeps adding to his list of disgraces!,” read another message.
The latest allegations surfaced just weeks after the mayor was accused of inappropriately touching a former political foe at a political event.
Sarah Thomson said Ford appeared out of it at the time and suggested he has a substance abuse problem, but the mayor denied the incident occurred.