Gawker, the American website that broke the news of an alleged video showing Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, is standing by its story, even as the site's editor admits his confidence in obtaining the video "has diminished."
In a statement Friday afternoon, Mr. Ford denied that he uses crack cocaine, and said: "I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen, or does not exist."
Gawker responded by saying that the mayor's statement did not contradict the website's original reporting. "The fact that Rob Ford says he does not currently use crack cocaine has no bearing on his past behaviour," Gawker editor John Cook wrote. "He did not say, as one who has never smoked crack cocaine might say, 'I have never smoked crack cocaine.'
Mr. Cook launched the "Crackstarter" campaign last week in a bid to crowd-source $200,000 to purchase a video he claims depicts the Toronto mayor smoking crack cocaine. In a Gawker report last week, Mr. Cook wrote that he has seen the video in question, but that he is unable to obtain it because the purported video's owner wants "six figures" for it.
As of Friday evening, the campaign has raised more than $165,000, with three days left until its Monday deadline.
But on Thursday evening, Mr. Cook posted an update saying that he has been unable to make contact with the purported video's owner since Sunday.
In his update, Mr. Cook wrote that he was first told about the alleged video by a tipster, who then put him in contact with the purported video's owner. He said that he had been in "relatively constant communication" with that tipster ever since, but that the tipster hasn't been able to track down the owner in recent days.
"At this point, we have no idea why he is out of touch, or if he even knows about the Crackstarter campaign," Mr. Cook wrote. "He may have decided against selling the video. He may be waiting until the campaign hits its $200,000 mark before coming out of hiding. We simply don't know."
So far, he added, the campaign hasn't actually withdrawn funds from any donors' accounts, and won't do so unless the $200,000 goal is reached. If the campaign does reach its goal, but isn't able to purchase the video, he said, the proceeds will be donated to a non-profit group that addresses substance-abuse issues.