Half a year ago, Rob Ford’s mother and sister invited a television crew into the Ford family home to defend the embattled Toronto mayor, denying that he needed addiction treatment, and insisting his main problem was his weight.
But this week, after the twin revelations of a new drug video viewed by The Globe and Mail, as well as an audio recording of the mayor using lewd and offensive language in a bar, his family acknowledged his need for professional help.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” the mayor’s mother Diane Ford told CP24 Thursday, the morning after he announced he was taking a break to seek help for his “problem with drinking.”
“I had no idea how serious it was,” she said. “But he doesn’t live with me, so I don’t know what he does every minute of every day.”
As Mr. Ford has fought through scandal after scandal in the year since the first allegations of crack cocaine use, his tight-knit family has stuck by him, denying he was an addict and lashing out against his attackers.
“My dad always said ‘united we stand, divided we fall,’” Mr. Ford’s sister Kathy – who has also struggled with addiction – said in the televised interview with CP24 in November of last year. “We have lived by that as a family.”
Kathy’s home is the backdrop of the most recent drug video, which The Globe and Mail reported Wednesday was shot last weekend and shows the mayor smoking what has been described as crack cocaine. Kathy Ford has not commented, staying out of the public eye on Thursday.
One of the mayor’s most ardent defenders has been his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, who is also running his re-election campaign.
After the first media reports about a video purportedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine in May, Doug Ford attacked first the Toronto Star for reporting it, then Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair for commenting on it.
But on Wednesday, the often pugnacious councillor was in tears, acknowledging his brother needed the time off.
“I can tell you that this is one of the toughest days of my life,” Doug Ford told reporters at City Hall. “But in saying that, I also have a sense of relief. As an older brother, I’m relieved that Rob has faced his problems and has decided to seek professional help.”
The councillor said his brother had “let people down, he let his family down, he let his friends down, he let his colleagues down, he let his supporters down, and the people of Toronto.”
He concluded by restating his support for his brother. “I love my brother. I’ll continue to stand by my brother and his family throughout this difficult journey.”
Both he and Diane asked that the mayor’s privacy be respected at this time.
After Chief Blair announced in October of last year that police had a copy of a drug video, the Fords had a family meeting at Diane Ford’s home in Etobicoke, she said in the earlier TV interview.
She said she had given her son a list of advice, including to hire a driver, lose weight, get an “alcohol detector” for his car, and “see a counsellor.”
After that meeting, she denied the mayor needed time off, or needed treatment for addiction, saying “he isn’t there.”
“Rob has an active mind. Rob has an active body. … He’s got to be productive,” she said at the time. “People don’t understand. ‘Take a break, take a break. you’ve got to step down, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to get help.’ That’s not Rob.”
With a report from Renata D’Aliesio