Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a target of criticism for his often unconventional conduct, on Friday denied media allegations that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
“Absolutely not true,” Ford told reporters gathered outside his west Toronto house, before driving off in his SUV.
Reporters for the Toronto Star and Gawker Media said late on Thursday they had watched a cellphone video that appears to show Ford smoking crack, although both news outlets said they had declined to pay the $100,000 (N15.7m) price asked by the tipsters, people that the Star said were involved in the Toronto drug trade.
Reuters could not confirm the existence of the video and it is not clear what impact the allegations will have on Ford’s position as mayor of Canada’s largest city.
The mayor still has an approval rating of around 50 per cent despite a series of negative headlines, although that’s down from 70 per cent in the year after he took power, according to Forum Research.
A Toronto Police spokesman said police are “closely monitoring the situation”.
Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, did not return Reuters’ requests for comment.
“We’re just trying to see whether or not such a video exists and whether or not any video has been doctored or altered,” Morris told the Toronto Sun newspaper.
Asked if Ford planned legal action, Morris said it is at the “bottom rung of the ladder” now.
Gawker is asking for donations in what it has labelled a “Crackstarter” campaign to raise $200,000 to buy the video and post it online. It says it has already raised $28,000.
Ford, 43, was elected in 2010 on a promise to “stop the gravy train” at City Hall. But he has frequently attracted unfavourable news coverage, including for a conflict of interest case that almost cost him his job, a photograph of him reading documents while driving on the freeway, and an altercation with a reporter on a patch of land outside his house.
At City Hall on Friday, Ford initially brushed past reporters, only to return to deliver a very brief statement.
“These allegations are ridiculous, another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me,” Ford said. “And that’s all I’ve got to say for now.”
He however did not reply when asked if he believed the video was faked.