Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
Plus a brief history of Rob Ford impersonators.
It's been nearly a week since the news first broke that three journalists had watched a video that they say shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack, giggling and uttering a homophobic slur. You're probably wondering what has happened since.
Things had been moving pretty slowly until this afternoon, when the mayor's chief of staff Mark Towhey made a hasty and unexpected departure from City Hall. "I am no longer the chief of staff. I did not resign," Towhey told reporters as he was escorted out through a parking lot by security. Towhey said he had given the mayor his advice on the crack allegations, but would not say what it was.*
Meanwhile, Gawker's Crackstarter is chugging along, already two-thirds of the way to the $200,000 they're trying to raise to purchase the video, with five days remaining. But from Mayor Ford himself, news has been scarce.
Despite the best efforts of Toronto's journalists -- who have by all accounts gone to great lengths to pry some answers out of their mayor, bombarding him with seemingly easy questions like "Have you smoked crack?" at every turn -- Ford has hardly said a word on the subject.
Here are the collected responses of Rob Ford, on the subject of the famous video being shopped around by alleged drug dealers:
"Absolutely not true... It's ridiculous. It's another Toronto Star whatever." (Friday morning.)
"Anyways, like I said this morning, these allegations are ridiculous, it’s another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. And that’s all I’ve got to say for now.” (Friday midday.)
The mayor's brother, city councillor Doug Ford, was slightly more forthcoming at a press conference Wednesday where he reaffirmed his faith in his brother's record and blasted media harassment of his family. He spent a long time -- an oddly long time -- touting the mayor's legislative achievements, and outlining his history of persecution at the hands of the no-good Toronto Star, where two of the crack video-witnesses work.
But let's face it, the Star's hatred of Ford has little to do with it. Either there's a video in which Rob Ford smokes crack, or smokes something that looks like crack, or there isn't. And if there isn't, there's a video in which someone who looks, and sounds, a lot like Rob Ford -- enough to fool three career reporters -- smokes something like crack. No media outlet has fully thrown its resources into this second option, because 1) Rob Ford has proven himself over the years to be crazy enough that this video might actually be authentic and 2) Rob Ford still hasn't explicitly denied that he's either smoked crack or appears in the video, which is weird and warrants suspicion.
But at least on this side of the border, you're innocent until proven guilty, which brings us to the subject of Rob Ford impersonators. Jimmy Kimmel did a skit this week in which he interviewed "Rob Ford." It wasn't very funny, and the guy looked nothing like Rob Ford. Rob Ford is a really unusual-looking guy.
But that doesn't mean that Rob Ford lookalikes aren't out there. (One of them is in the image directly above this paragraph, a screenshot from a YouTube video shot at a resort in Cuba.) In fact, they're occasionally in demand in the Toronto area. We've found two classified ads in the past two years on CanadianListed (a site somewhat similar to Craigslist) in search of Rob Ford lookalikes for short films. Here's one that's dated April of 2012:
A dark comedy seeking a shot of the mayor smoking and chuckling? Well that does sound familiar. We've emailed both posters for these ads to ask whatever happened to these projects, and whether they could in any way be linked to the current scandal, but have not heard back.
All told, it would be one hell of a long con.
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Top image: REUTERS/Mark Blinch
*This article has been updated to reflect Towhey's departure.