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Mayoral candidate Doug Ford speaks to the media after a debate at CTV studios in Scarborough on Oct. 22, 2014.KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/The Globe and Mail

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford is under fire for reports that he called someone "a little bitch" at the conclusion of a debate Wednesday night.

Mr. Ford's campaign is refusing to discuss the accusations, though it issued a statement insisting only that the candidate did not use the words to describe a Toronto Star reporter.

On Wednesday evening, after a scrum with Mr. Ford, Star reporter Jennifer Pagliaro tweeted that he had said "I can't stand that little bitch." She added: "I did not hear it. Multiple photographers heard it." The Star reported that an executive of CTV News, in whose studios the debate had been held, confirmed a producer had heard the comment.

Near midnight, Mr. Ford's campaign issued a statement about the report.

"I respect that reporters have a job to do but I am being accused of something that is not accurate. The Toronto Star is reporting that I made a derogatory comment about one of its reporters. The fact is, I had a private conversation with two of my staff members as I was walking out of the debate, and that private conversation was completely unrelated to anyone in the room. I never said anything about the Toronto Star reporter. This reporter heard something secondhand and based on this inferred I was talking about her, when the Toronto Star reporter's name didn't even come up once."

Mr. Ford's campaign has not returned a phone call and an e-mail from The Globe requesting information about the nature of his comment or its intended target.

His rivals were quick to jump on the incident. John Tory's campaign tweeted: "Doug Ford's comment to @JPags [Ms. Pagliaro] tonight is completely unacceptable … particularly from someone seeking to be mayor of this city. He should apologize immediately."

Ms. Chow's campaign tweeted: "@DougFord2014 should immediately apologize to @JPags for his repugnant comment. It is offensive to her, to women, and to this city."

The incident appears to mark a new turn in the frequently fractious relationship between the Fords and the Star. After the paper published a report in the summer of 2010 about Rob Ford's conduct as a high school football coach, the Fords sought ways to limit its access to his administration. The paper responded aggressively with coverage that some readers criticized as biased.

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