Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admits he smoked crack cocaine, but vows to stay on

November 6, 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media at City Hall in Toronto, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

As confessions go, this one was stunning.

After months of denials, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted Tuesday to smoking crack cocaine—probably during a "drunken stupor," he said. The first admission came outside his office to reporters; he later held a news conference in which he apologized, and said he knew that he "embarrassed everyone in the city" and "let you down."

Then he promptly vowed to stay on, saying he would leave it up to the voters of Toronto to decide—a year from now—whether he should keep his job. "For the sake of the taxpayers of this great city, for the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately," he said during the news conference. "We must keep Toronto moving forward. I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing."

The admission comes months after the Toronto Star and Gawker.com first reported in May about a video that appeared to show Ford smoking crack. Since then, he has denied the video's existence and said "I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict." Even as late as Monday, he said "I can assure you … I do not use drugs, I drink." The same day he confessed to having smoked crack in the past, Ford's brother, a Toronto city councilor, called for Toronto's police chief to step down over his handling of the case.

In Toronto, the mayor apparently cannot be forced from office unless he is convicted and jailed for a criminal offense. Still, it's clear that he will have extraordinary difficulty governing if he indeed stays on (despite remaining surprisingly popular). Several Toronto city councilors have asked him to step aside and are trying to curtail his executive powers. The aggressive tone by Ford's brother toward the police chief raises big questions about how upcoming police budget discussions will be managed. And ultimately, it will be incredibly difficult for the city's government to run effectively when the person leading it is increasingly isolated, distracted by troubling personal issues, and consumed by trying to rebuild voters' trust. Anytime a leader's individual crises outweigh his ability to do the job at hand, it's time to move on.

Read also:

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's leadership calamity

Kathleen Sebelius and the late apology

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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Jena McGregor | November 6, 2013