ABOVE: Towhey, Massoudi deny VICE report that hacker was hired to destroy crack video. Peter Kim reports.
TORONTO – Both Mark Towhey and Amin Massoudi are denying the “entirety” of a recent report in VICE magazine which claims attempts were made to hire a hacker to destroy the alleged crack video.
“I can categorically state that at no time did I engage in any of the activities mentioned therein. The entirety of the story is false and everything referenced therein has been fabricated. It is telling that the story neither quotes any named sources nor provides any independent corroboration of the alleged hacker’s information,” Massoudi wrote in an email to Global News.
The report, published Tuesday afternoon, explains that VICE was contacted by an anonymous hacker in July who claimed that he had been hired by Ford’s communications director Amin Massoudi to hack a website in order to delete the video allegedly showing the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.
“The unnamed source claims to have deleted the very evidence he or she is now trying to pawn over the Internet. Any alleged evidence is clearly fabricated, Massoudi wrote in his email to Global News.
The report also claims Massoudi used a city of Toronto email address to talk with the hacker. A claim which Massoudi denied outright.
“To be clear, at no time did I use a City of Toronto email account – or any other account for that matter – to instruct anyone to hack into anything,” Massoudi wrote, adding he will ask the city’s IT department to investigate any improper use of his email. “I have no knowledge of anyone using my email account for this purpose and I have never used it for this purpose myself.”
Global News has not seen the emails in question and cannot verify the claims made by Vice.
According to Vice, the first correspondence from Massoudi to the hacker was on May 18, 2013, just two days after Gawker’s story about the alleged Ford crack video made waves around the world. Massoudi’s email was sent from a City of Toronto email address while he was working for Rob Ford’s brother and Councillor, Doug Ford, VICE says.
VICE concedes the email cannot be verified by City Hall because Massoudi switched jobs nine days later becoming Mayor Rob Ford’s spokesman and communications director, rendering his email records in Councillor Ford’s office not publicly available.
“Got something I want you to look into. Think you probably know what’s been reported. What’s the best way we can talk…T said you might be able to help us again,” Massoudi reportedly wrote to the hacker.
According to the VICE report, the hacker said “T” stands for Rob Ford’s former chief of staff Mark Towhey. Towhey was fired as Ford’s chief of staff one week later, on May 23.
But late Tuesday evening Towhey denied on Twitter the report in VICE magazine:
In May U.S. based publication Gawker and the Toronto Star reported on a video showing the mayor smoking what looked like crack cocaine. The issue made headlines again last week when Police Chief Bill Blair acknowledged that he had seen the alleged video.
Ford admitted to having smoked crack cocaine about a year ago Tuesday, but did not comment on the alleged video.
Until Tuesday morning the mayor had refused to address crack use or the video, saying he can’t comment on a video he has not seen.
VICE reports, and Massoudi denies, that he tried to enlist an unidentified hacker to break into a website, Bugs3, and find, then destroy the crack video which could be hosted on the site.
Ultimately, VICE reports the hacker was unable to delete the video files and was not paid out by Massoudi.
Rob and Doug Ford have denied VICE’s requests for comment, the publication reports.
Founded in 1994 in Montreal, VICE magazine describes itself as the definitive guide to enlightening information. The magazine is now considered the darling of the media industry with financial backers that includes Newscorp CEO Rupert Murdoch.
Below is the full email Amin Massoudi sent to Global News:
“A disturbing and false story on a U.S. website has recently come to my attention.
Having reviewed the contents of the story, I can categorically state that at no time did I engage in any of the activities mentioned therein. The entirety of the story is false and everything referenced therein has been fabricated. It is telling that the story neither quotes any named sources nor provides any independent corroboration of the alleged hacker’s information. The story does not meet even the most basic of journalistic standards.
To be clear, at no time did I use a City of Toronto email account – or any other account for that matter – to instruct anyone to hack into anything. I will be requesting that the City of Toronto IT department further investigate this matter to see if my email account has been spoofed, as I have no knowledge of anyone using my email account for this purpose and I have never used it for this purpose myself.
The unnamed source claims to have deleted the very evidence he or she is now trying to pawn over the Internet. Any alleged evidence is clearly fabricated. As the alleged story appears on a sensationalist website based outside the jurisdiction of our courts, then I presume that your organization will not republish for the public these false and defamatory comments now that you have been put on notice of the false and defamatory nature of the comments, which would clearly cause damage to me and others. I may need to seek legal advice to enforce my rights, but it is my hope that your organization would never republish this harmful story.”