TORONTO – When Toronto’s confessed crack-smoking mayor announced Wednesday night that he was taking a break from his re-election campaign to seek “immediate” professional help for his issues, the rest of the world took notice.
International media were almost as quick to report the latest revelations in the Rob Ford scandal as hometown news outlets, with a media report of another video allegedly showing the mayor smoking crack snagging top headlines.
Such industry giants as the Associated Press, ABC and the BBC offered prominent coverage, while the story was the top-rated item on TMZ.
Social media was also instantly abuzz after two Toronto newspapers printed fresh allegations concerning the controversial mayor.
The Globe and Mail said two of its reporters viewed a new video of Ford smoking what the newspaper said was described as crack cocaine by a self-professed drug dealer. The Globe, which said the mayor would not comment on the video Wednesday, reported that it was secretly filmed in Ford’s sister’s basement early Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Sun reported it obtained an audio recording of the mayor “being unruly as he’s ordering booze” and making “lewd comments” about one of his election rivals at a west Toronto bar. The mayor reportedly told the paper he didn’t remember making the comments.
Rather than issuing an outright denial, as he has done in similar situations, Ford issued a statement through his lawyer saying he planned to take a 30-day leave to address his problems.
“He acknowledges he has a substance abuse problem and he wants to do something about it,” Dennis Morris said late Wednesday.
Morris’s statement was rapidly picked up by the BBC, ABC and the Los Angeles Times, which all ran stories detailing Ford’s legal woes both past and present.
The mayor has been a fixture of foreign media coverage since his admission, last November, that he had smoked crack cocaine in the past.
His much-hyped appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show only increased his international profile.
Kimmel, who razzed the mayor and his previous “drunken stupors” before a late-night audience in February, seemed to recognize that the latest allegations were no laughing matter.
“All jokes aside, I hope @TOMayorFord really does get the help he obviously needs,” Kimmel wrote on Twitter.
The mayor, a vocal critic of much Canadian news coverage, has often praised foreign media for adopting what he described as a less combative tone.
Wednesday’s headlines, however, lacked the gentle touch.
“Toronto ‘Crack Mayor’ Rob Ford — Going to Rehab After Latest Drunken Rant,” read the TMZ banner.
International news watchers also weighed in via social media, offering reflections on what many view as a mayoral phenomenon.
“OK, so NOW can you Torontonians get rid of this guy? asked one bemused Twitter user.
Others treated the event with a degree of wry amusement.
“I just want Rob Ford to climb the CN Tower angrily swatting at planes as Bieber dangles from his other hand,” quipped a twitter user from Columbus, Ohio.
“Dear Canadian Friends, Sorry for your Rob Ford angst, but it’s kinda delightful to witness all the ire,” wrote another.
Closer to home, reaction poured in swiftly from Ford’s mayoral rivals, who unanimously voiced concerns that a temporary leave from the campaign trail was not enough.
“@TOMayorFord is a disgrace. It’s time for him to go. Now,” tweeted fellow right winger David Soknacki.
John Tory, another fiscal conservative widely viewed as a strong challenger to Ford’s mayoralty, issued a statement expressing relief that Ford was seeking help, but calling for more decisive action on the professional front.
“Like Torontonians across the city, I am deeply disappointed by these revelations of Mayor Ford’s behaviour,” the statement read. “For the good of the city, I call on Mayor Ford to resign.”