Mayor Mel Lastman apologized and apologized yesterday for a gaffe about Africans, but offered no explanation for the remarks and did not respond to demands for his resignation over the controversy.
In a bizarre news conference, the mayor answered 17 questions by repeating an apology for his statement that he feared going to Africa in support of Toronto's 2008 Olympic bid because he might end up in a pot of boiling water.
"What do you want from me, except I'm sorry?" he angrily replied to a reporter at one point.
It was his first meeting with the media since the publication of the remarks, made to a reporter earlier this month before he went to Kenya to pitch the Toronto Olympic bid, and the mayor did not answer questions directly about why he made the statement or what impact it might have on the bid.
The most damaging effects of his remarks are likely to be among International Olympic Committee members from Africa, whose votes have been seen as critical to Toronto's possible success when the commission picks a host city next month in Moscow.
Dan Moyo, secretary-general of Southern Africa national Olympic committees and a senior official of South Africa's national Olympic committee, said he didn't think the comments would affect the bid, but added: "It will send a message that one will have to check again" about Toronto's strengths for holding the Games and who is organizing the city's bid.
Mr. Moyo said from Johannesburg that the mayor's apology would be accepted if it is "genuinely from deep in his heart."
"He should show some sensitivity and respect other cultures. If he is going to host other countries he should be sensitive to other beliefs and cultures."
Kenyan IOC member Kipchoge Keino said: "It's entirely the views of an individual. It has nothing to do with Toronto. It's his own opinion. Human beings always have failures and successes. We take it lightly."
The apology was not good enough for Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton and his party. They called on Mr. Lastman to resign as mayor.
"Your racist comments make it abundantly clear to us that you are no longer fit for office," Mr. Hampton said in a letter to Mr. Lastman co-signed by party House Leader Peter Kormos. "You, of all people, should recognize the harm caused by the telling of racist jokes. Such stereotypes are never funny."
Scarborough MMP Alvin Curling, the only black person in the Ontario Legislature, described the mayor's remarks as "ignorant and colonial" and called for him to step down.
"If the man wants to show some grace, and he is tired and he is confused, he should quit," Mr. Curling said in an interview, adding that was controlling his private anger and tempering his public reaction.
The Toronto bid committee accepted the mayor's apology, but scrambled into damage-control mode yesterday all the same.
"We accept the mayor's apology," Bob Richardson, the bid's chief operating officer, told a hastily arranged news conference at City Hall. "We felt his remarks were inappropriate. However, it's a new day today."
At Queen's Park yesterday, Premier Mike Harris, a fervent advocate of bringing the Olympic Games to Toronto, said he hoped Mr. Lastman's comments would not damage the city's bid.
"I think his comments were wrong, and I think they're unfortunate and the timing was unfortunate, but he apologized right away," Mr. Harris said while campaigning in connection with a by-election north of Toronto.