Toronto Mayor Rob Ford refused to say whether he has used illegal drugs since November, just hours after he dodged the same question in an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC's Today.
In the Today interview Tuesday morning, Mr. Lauer asked the mayor whether he has used illegal drugs since they last spoke in November – around the same time the mayor finally admitted after months of denials that he had smoked crack cocaine "in a drunken stupor."
The mayor's response to Mr. Lauer's question was, "I don't use illegal drugs."
He was then asked by City Hall reporters to clarify his comment, and asked repeatedly whether he has used any drugs since November. The mayor ignored the questions, asking, "Is there any other question?" before walking out of his own press conference.
The mayor has been under fire since May of last year, when reports first surfaced about a videotape that apparently shows the Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine. After that, Mr. Ford had many of his powers stripped away from him by council, amidst the revelation that police are investigating him and his office for possible wrongdoing.
But in the Today interview, a confident-sounding Mr. Ford told Mr. Lauer that he is looking forward to the October 27 election, and making positive changes to his life.
"I'm going to the gym every day, losing a few pounds," he said, adding that "going door to door" as the mayoral election campaign gears up is also keeping him in better physical condition.
Mr. Ford has rarely granted one-on-one interviews since the cocaine and alcohol scandal broke last year, but has made himself available for a number of U.S. television and radio programs.
When asked why he would take questions about drug use from Mr. Lauer, but not from city hall reporters, Mr. Ford replied: "What, are you jealous because I do an interview with an American station?"
Mr. Lauer further pressed the mayor on whether he has, as promised, put an end to binge drinking – pointing to a video that emerged recently of the mayor rambling in Jamaican patois, and using explicit language to describe the city's police chief.
"I drank. I enjoyed myself," Mr. Ford said. "Maybe you're perfect, but I'm not. We're moving forward in a positive direction."
Mr. Ford's campaign manager and brother, Councillor Doug Ford told AM640 that his brother chose to do the interview with NBC to "circumvent" the local media, which he claimed are out to get his brother.
"We try to sit down with the Canadian media – I keep emphasizing, not all of them – but it's just a full-on attack."
As for concerns about his brother and possible drug use, he said: "Rob's looking great. He's feeling great. He's working out every day – few hours a day."
But Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former ally of the mayor who is considering a mayoral run, said the majority of Toronto residents do not support a mayor who takes drugs and the voters will have a chance to give their verdict on Mr. Ford's personal behaviour in October.
"Apparently he thinks serial deception is okay because everyone is a liar," Mr. Minnan-Wong said when told about Mr. Ford's refusal to answer questions about possible drug use.
"Quite frankly, that doesn't cut it with me and I don't think it cuts it with most hard-working Torontonians who play by the rules and who want a safe city without drugs. "
With a report from Elizabeth Church.