Mayor Rob Ford is defending his behaviour at a weekend street festival, captured on several online videos, saying he had "a couple of beers" and let his hair down.
The videos, which show Mr. Ford walking on east-end streets without his staff and surrounded by passersby jockeying to get a picture, quickly went viral over the weekend. They are the latest episode involving the conduct of the mayor. In March, he denied reports that he was asked to leave a charity gala because he appeared to be intoxicated. In May, he denied accusations that he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
Mr. Ford addressed the latest questions about his behaviour during his weekly radio show on Sunday.
"Friday night I went to Taste of the Danforth," the mayor said. "Did I have a couple of beers? Absolutely I had a couple of beers, but you know what, I had a good time."
Mr. Ford was spotted about 9:30 p.m. on Greenwood Avenue, several blocks away from the popular event. He is carrying a large coffee and can be heard on one video saying he wants to go to the Danforth and "party."
Responding to the stir created by the videos and photos, the mayor said "things are getting blown out of proportion."
"If I offended anyone you know what, I apologize," Mr. Ford said. "I had a good time, let my hair down a bit."
The mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford who co-hosts the show, said he arrived at the event about an hour later and the mayor "seemed alright."
"Rob and I are average guys," he said on the show. "We go down to a festival, we have a couple of beers, you get everyone on you."
The Etobicoke councillor later clarified that he does not drink, and then said, "If Rob wants to go there, have a couple beers ... Have I seen my brother hammered in his life? Yeah I have. Have I seen him with a couple drinks? Yeah. But you ask anyone in his staff, in our family, you know Rob doesn't sit there in public and start hammering away on drinks. It just never happens."
Responding to question from a caller to the show, the mayor, who has been urged by his brother and others to use a driver, said he drove himself to the event, but was driven home by staff.
"I went down there, I drove myself down there," the mayor said. "I was not drinking. I went out, had a few beers and I did not drive home."
A spokesman for the mayor's office said Mr. Ford consumed beer at the event, not before, but could not provide details of how many drinks the mayor had, or where on the Danforth he had them.
Spokesman Amin Massoudi said a mix-up in communication caused Mr. Ford to miss his staff at the annual street party. He could not say where the mayor was before he was spotted by residents near his SUV, parked two subway stops away from the festival, which closes Danforth Avenue between Broadview and Jones avenues.
Mr. Ford is usually accompanied by at least one staff member at official public appearances. His staff and police later joined the mayor, as did his brother.
On Friday afternoon, the mayor's office said he was expected to attend Taste of the Danforth that evening, but did not provide a place or time. Mr. Ford was invited to take part in opening ceremonies for the event at 8 pm Friday, but a spokesman for Taste of the Danforth said the mayor did not confirm his attendance.
Mr. Ford has faced questions about his behaviour at public events in the past. In March, his chief of staff denied allegations that Mr. Ford was asked to leave a charity dinner attended by cabinet ministers and other politicians for appearing intoxicated.
In 1999, Mr. Ford was convicted of driving under the influence in Florida. He was barred from driving in Florida for a year, paid a $664.75 fine and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.