A “crackstarter” campaign to purchase a tape reportedly showing Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack has reached its goal, but the tape may still never see the light of day.
Reports arose weeks ago of a tape that supposedly showed Ford smoking crack cocaine. The video was reportedly being shopped around by a group of Toronto men connected to the local drug trade, ones who said they have sold drugs to Ford in the past. They wanted $200,000 for the tape, reports said.
Gawker writer John Cook said he was approached by a tipster claiming to possess the video of the conservative mayor smoking crack. To bolster the claim, the tipster sent a picture allegedly showing Ford hanging out with a group of young black men, one of whom would later be killed outside a Toronto nightclub in a gangland-style shooting.
The photo appears blurry and taken in the dark, but Gawker compared it to another photo of Rob Ford from the National Post where he is wearing the same sweatshirt and concluded that the two appear to be the same.
Cook flew to Toronto to view the supposed Rob Ford crack video, writing:
“Here is what the video shows: Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, is the only person visible in the frame. Prior to the trip, I spent a lot of time looking at photographs of Rob Ford. The man in the video is Rob Ford. It is well-lit, clear. Ford is seated, in a room in a house. In one hand is a a clear, glass pipe. The kind with a big globe and two glass cylinders sticking out of it. In the other hand is a lighter.”
So Gawker reporter John Cook then started an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds.
The fundraiser gained the nickname crackstarter, and in short time reached its goal. The donations included at least one donor who gave $10,000, earning the person the chance to get the actual iPhone used to tape the reported incident.
But even with the crackstarter reaching its goal, organizers said they didn’t have confidence those offering the Rob Ford crack tape would follow through.
“As we mentioned when we launched the campaign, folks who are involved in the crack trade tend not to be the most reliable people in the world. This has proven to be the case when it comes to the owner of the video of Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. We were initially made aware of the video by a tipster, who connected us with the owner of the video after we traveled to Toronto. We’ve been in relatively constant communication with the tipster since then. But he has told us that hasn’t been able to make contact with the owner of the video in recent days.”
Ford himself has denied the allegations, speaking out on a weekly radio show he hosts with his brother, city council member Doug Ford.
When a caller asked if the video was really him, Ford responded, “Number one: There’s no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist.”
A lawyer retained by Ford, Dennis Morris, called Gawker’s report “false and defamatory.” Both Gawker and the Star noted that there was no way to verify the video.
Whether the crackstarter campaign goes through or not, the crack smoking video scandal appears to be taking a toll on Rob Ford. The mayor announced Monday that press secretary George Christopoulos and deputy press secretary Isaac Ransom had quit, just a week after Ford fired his chief of staff.