Mayor Ford denies published report he was intoxicated at gala
Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013 8:48AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 26, 2013 10:46PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is denying allegations that he was asked to leave a recent charity event because he appeared intoxicated, saying that is “an outright lie.”
The Toronto Star reported Tuesday that Ford was asked to leave a Feb. 23 gala fundraiser benefitting the Wounded Warriors charity over concerns about his behaviour.
The report also alleged that the mayor has been battling alcohol abuse and that members of his inner circle have repeatedly tried to convince him to get help.
"Number 1, it's an outright lie,” Ford said Tuesday morning when pressed for comment on the article after he gave Canadian boxing legend George Chuvalo the keys to city at a special ceremony.
“It's the Toronto Star going after me again, and again, and again. They're relentless. That's fine. I'll go head-to-head with the Toronto Star anytime," he said.
Ford then suggested it will be up to voters to rate his performance, before levelling his own allegations at the paper.
"It's just lies, after lies, after lies. .. So why don't you take me to court? Let the courts decide," he said.
"It's about George Chuvalo today guys," Ford snapped before leaving the podium. "Have some respect."
Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke told The Canadian Press he stands by the report. He denied that the paper is going after the mayor.
"If we're lying, it means six or seven other prominent people at that dinner are lying as well. Is he calling them liars?" Cooke said.
The Star report cited information based on interviews with six organizers and guests of the annual Garrison Ball, all of whom asked to remain anonymous.
According to the paper, city councillor Paul Ainslie said Ford was asked to leave the event but wouldn't say why.
Ainslie, who helped organize the ball, later told CTV News that he suggested to Ford’s chief of staff that the mayor leave.
“Some people came up to me that were at the ball and they had some concerns about the mayor and so I went up and chit-chatted with the mayor for a couple of minutes and basically I just said to his chief of staff : ‘You know, I think it would be better for everybody involved if the mayor left,” he said.
“My understanding is he left shortly after that.”
Asked whether Ford appeared to have an alcohol problem, Ainslie replied: “I’m not a medical practitioner.”
A letter from the Garrison Ball organizing committee, however, said that none of its members, including Ainslie, asked Ford to leave.
An unnamed member of the Garrison Ball organizing committee is quoted in the paper saying it happened because Ford “seemed either drunk, high or had a medical condition."
But others told the paper the mayor's behaviour at the event -- attended by 800 soldiers, sailors, airforce personnel and civilians -- did not seem out of the ordinary.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in an email Tuesday that he chatted briefly with Ford at the gala and “he looked fine to me.”
The event’s co-chair Mark McQueen wrote in an email to theStar that he saw Ford interacting with guests, “albeit from a distance,” and “people were cheerfully introducing themselves to him and posing for photographs.”
Real estate agent Anita Springate-Renaud also told the Star Ford did not appear impaired when she spoke to him that night. "He wasn't in any way intoxicated, he seemed fine to me," she is quoted as saying.
Ford's press secretary George Christopoulos released an official response to the allegations, telling CTV News that, "for the record, Ford was never asked to leave the Garrison Ball."
Before the mayor's scheduled appearance Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday came to Ford's defence, saying that he had "never seen the mayor take a drink."
"I guess it's just a never-ending thing that seems to happen with the mayor that every day we wake up there's a new story. And some seem to have credibility, and some don't," he said, explaining that although he wasn't at the event, he doesn’t believe the allegations.
"I guess we're going to have to wait and see on this one."
Earlier this month, Ford was accused by former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson of inappropriate behaviour at an event hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
Thomson alleged the mayor not only made an untoward remark, but also touched her inappropriately.
"I was really shocked at that point 'cause that is not the way Rob has ever behaved before and I've never seen him like that," Thomson told CTV News.
In response, Ford said he was "shocked, dismayed and surprised" by the allegations.
"I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false," he said of Thomson’s claims.
With a report from CTV’s Scott Laurie