Highs and lows of office: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford needs to get ahead of allegations

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It is said everyone is innocent until proven guilty – which, under the Canadian justice system at least, is true.

But when you’re a public figure that has been entrusted with the keys to Canada’s largest city and are faced with such a salacious (and as yet unproven) allegation of smoking crack cocaine, it’s in the interest of the greater good of all your constituents to address the allegations quickly and head-on.

Last night, it was reported by the Toronto Star that the news reporting website, Gawker, had reportedly seen a video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Toronto Star reporters Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle confirmed seeing the video and have described it in a video.

According to the Toronto Star, Ford ally and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday says he doesn’t feel the video is genuine. In fact, Holyday made reference to a video by students at Centre NAD in Montreal that seemed to show an eagle snatching a toddler in a Montreal park. The viral video turned out to be a wonderful hoax.

In reference to the video, Holyday was reported to say, “I saw a video of a bird picking up a baby on television and it turned out that it wasn’t accurate.”

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford needs to get ahead of allegations

Here’s a screen cap of that fake eagle video from Montreal.

This is a fair statement. But Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the fourth largest on the continent. Toronto, and even the country, can’t afford to be dealing with these allegations and Ford needs to categorically refute them if they’re not true.

In fact, a Globe and Mail editorial has said the exact same thing

A city as important as Toronto can’t afford to have this hanging over its head. It’s distracting to the business of government and the economic health of the city – especially since the story has now gone international.

A story also appeared this morning on a Washington Post blog, by Will Sommer, titled “Crack-Smoking Mayors: Not Just for D.C. Anymore”. The terms “Ford” AND “crack” are now trending on Twitter, and a quick scan using MediaMiser software indicated around 150 U.S.-based articles (so far), powered in large part by a Rob Gillies AP story and a Reuters story penned by Julie Gordon.

Toronto and the country can’t afford to take this hit and the only way to stop the distraction, the media noise, and the hit to Toronto’s brand is for Mayor Ford hold a press conference immediately to clear the air.

We’ll be tracking the media coverage of the scandal and it will be interesting to see if clear and honest communications helps to stem the media tide in both traditional and social coverage.