Rob Ford to step aside, seek help for substance abuse

Latest updates (11:13 a.m. ET):

TORONTO – After maintaining for months that he is not an addict or an alcoholic, Rob Ford announced Wednesday he is seeking help for substance abuse, even as media reports emerged with new drug and alcohol allegations.

“I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time,” the mayor said in a statement emailed by his re-election campaign.

“I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100 per cent committed to getting myself right.”

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The mayor said he will take a leave of absence from his re-election campaign and mayoral duties “to seek immediate help,” but gave no other details as to his plans.

The city clerk’s office confirmed to Global News Thursday morning it has received a written notice that the mayor is taking a personal leave but does not specify length of the absence or any time frame for a return.

This announcement comes after The Toronto Sun reportedly obtained an audio recording of Ford ranting in an Etobicoke bar Monday night and The Globe and Mail says a second video of Ford smoking what looks like crack-cocaine has emerged.

On Thursday, Ford’s mother Diane Ford said it was a sad and bittersweet day.

“I don’t even want to talk about it,” she said in an interview with CP24. “Just leave him alone that’s all I ask of the media. He’s doing what he has to do and that’s good.”

“I had no idea how serious it was. But he doesn’t live with me so I don’t know what he does of every minute of every day. That’s all.”

In the audio recording The Toronto Sun has obtained, the mayor allegedly makes rude comments about mayoral contender Karen Stintz and complains about his wife, Renata.

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The voice said to be that of the mayor is overheard at one point saying he would “like to f***ing jam her,” in reference to Stintz.

Stintz called Ford’s alleged comments “deeply offensive.”

“That a sitting mayor would make such shocking and bigoted remarks is disgusting,” she wrote in a statement.

“This is the not the first time that Rob Ford has made misogynistic comments.”

Global News has not been able to verify the authenticity of the audio.

LISTEN: Audio recording obtained by The Toronto Sun. Global News has not been able to verify the authenticity of this audio. Warning: Language might offend some viewers.

The Globe and Mail says the new video, which two reporters viewed, was secretly filmed in Ford’s sister’s basement last Saturday morning and shows Ford smoking a substance described as crack-cocaine from a “long copper-coloured pipe.”

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Gawker posted additional images Wednesday night from the same video The Globe and Mail viewed. The images show Ford standing up and clearly holding a pipe in his hands.

Dennis Morris, Ford’s Lawyer, told Global News Wednesday night “from what I gather, it’s drug dealers who took the video and I hope the media call into question who they are and what they sold it for.”

The Toronto Star published an article Thursday claiming witnesses saw Ford using cocaine at Muzik nightclub on March 15.

That same night Ford had an incident with Justin Bieber when the 20-year-old pop star asked the mayor if he had any crack when the two met.

Ford has denied allegations that he is addicted to drugs or alcohol, though he has admitted having used crack cocaine while in a “drunken stupor” during his tenure.

Shortly afterward, city council voted to relieve Ford of many of his mayoral powers.

The mayor also admitted he had been drinking during an incident in which he was filmed using Jamaican swear words and other profanities at a Toronto restaurant.

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He vowed last year that he had given up alcohol – part of a campaign to rehabilitate his image in light of his admission.

His family had previously backed up his assertions and his decision not to resign or take an official leave.

Media reports of a cellphone video on which Ford appears to smoke crack cocaine first appeared last May, and sparked a police probe dubbed Project Brazen 2.

But at that time, a guns, gangs and weapons probe called Project Traveller was already well underway. It included wiretaps that allegedly captured conversations about the video.

Police also believe that a widely published photo showing Ford posing with three men – one shot dead shortly after the photo was taken and the other two accused gang members – was taken outside an alleged crack house.

Statement from Rob Ford:

Tonight I want to take some time to speak from my heart to the people of Toronto. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life. I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time.

Today, after taking some time to think about my own well-being, how to best serve the people of Toronto and what is in the best interests of my family, I have decided to take a leave from campaigning and from my duties as Mayor to seek immediate help.

I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100% committed to getting myself right.

I love the people of Toronto, I love being your mayor and I hope you will continue to stand by me.

With the support of my family, friends, professionals and the people of Toronto, I will conquer this.

Please keep me and my family in your prayers during these difficult days ahead.

I just want to say to the people of Toronto that I thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement. I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate it.

Mayor Rob Ford

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Follow live developments on Rob Ford’s leave of absence with Global News reporter Jackson Proskow.

-With files from The Canadian Press