Prior to Wednesday night, there were people who would have said it was impossible to force Rob Ford into substance-abuse treatment, or even to get him to admit to having a substance-abuse problem. They were almost right.
The mayor did admit to having a problem last night, and he did announce that, although he wouldn’t be dropping out of the mayoral race, he would be taking a leave of absence and seeking counselling. Except, he did these things only after setting in motion the most remarkable media shitstorm in memory.
As it turns out, three separate newspapers were all working on different stories about things the mayor did while drunk or on drugs in the past six weeks. All three stories were published within hours of the press learning about Ford’s leave.
Here’s a chronological rundown of the night.
7:45 p.m. The Toronto Sun publishes a story saying that Ford will be taking a leave of absence to seek substance-abuse treatment. The Sun suggests that the decision may have something to do with an audio recording of the mayor rambling drunkenly, but the details aren’t clear.
8:00 p.m. Ford’s criminal lawyer, Dennis Morris, begins talking to the press. He confirms that the mayor is taking a leave of absence. Asked to explain the sudden decision, Morris suggests that it was prompted by stress caused by, among other things, the death of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, a Ford family friend. Morris adds that Ford isn’t dropping out of the mayoral race.
8:21 p.m. Before the Sun can even release its audio recording, the Globe and Mail pulls the ultimate one-up. The paper publishes a screenshot from a cell phone video taken early Saturday morning. The screenshot shows Ford, in a shirt and tie, holding something that looks very much like a crack pipe. The Globe‘s article says reporters have viewed the video and that it appears to show Ford smoking crack in his sister Kathy’s basement, while his friend, accused drug dealer and extortionist Sandro Lisi, looks on. In other words, it’s a second crack video, filmed less than a week ago.
8:30 p.m. The Sun finally releases its audio recording, and it’s about as bad as can possibly be imagined. Ford sounds drunk. He seems to say that he won’t be voting for the Tories in the upcoming provincial election because they supported raising a Pride flag at Queen’s Park. He calls Italian people “dagos,” bellows for more shots and at one point makes a lewd comment about fellow mayoral candidate Karen Stintz. The audio was reportedly recorded on Monday at Sullie Gorman’s, a pub located near Ford’s mother’s house, in Etobicoke.
9:00 p.m. It turns out Gawker has also seen crack video number two. The site publishes a few more screenshots.
9:23 p.m. Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke takes to Twitter to tease YET ANOTHER story about Ford and substance abuse, this one involving Justin Bieber.
— Michael Cooke (@TorStarEditor) May 1, 2014
At around the same time, Cooke goes on CP24 for an interview. He mentions that there are rumours of a Rob Ford sex tape.
9:55 p.m. Ford releases his official statement. In it, he admits, for the first time, to having a problem with alcohol. No other substances are mentioned, and no apology is offered. “I have a problem with alcohol and the choices I have made while under the influence,” the statement says. “I have struggled with this for some time.” The statement also confirms that Ford will be taking a leave to seek help.
11:10 p.m. The Star publishes its Ford/Bieber story, and it’s almost as damaging as the crack video. It details two occasions, one on St. Patrick’s Day weekend and one in April, when the mayor went to Muzik nightclub and appeared to do drugs. The article describes Ford disappearing into washrooms for hours and emerging incoherent, on one occasion leaving a pool of vomit in his wake. It details Ford’s relationship with the club’s owner (a registered lobbyist who has provided alcohol at the past two Ford Fests), and the VIP treatment the mayor received, up to and including the company of paid party hostesses. The absolute nadir came during the St. Patrick’s Day incident, when Rob Ford tried to introduce himself to Bieber, who was also at the club. “Did you bring any crack to smoke?” Bieber reportedly asked. Witnesses tell the Star that Ford was enraged by the pop star’s joke.
11:30 p.m. The Globe admits to having paid $10,000 for its video stills. They’re the same ones Gawker says it received for free.
11:40 p.m. Ford dodges reporters on the way to the door of his home.