The first step is admitting you have a problem – and after a year of notoriety, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is finally ready to take it.
“It’s not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life. I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence,” Ford said in a statement late Wednesday. “I have struggled with this for some time.”
Ford announced he would be taking a leave of absence from his re-election campaign to seek help.
“I have decided to take a leave from campaigning and from my duties as Mayor to seek immediate help,” she said. “I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100% committed to getting myself right.”
Last May, the Toronto Star and Gawker posted a video of Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine, while saying racist and homophobic slurs, catapulting the mayor to international infamy. NBC News has not verified the authenticity of this video.
A series of headline-grabbing antics have occupied the Toronto press for months: Ford apologized for being “hammered” in public; he’s seen in another video seemingly quite drunk and spewing obscenities; he swore on live television; and later got a ticket for jaywalking. He admitted to buying and smoking crack cocaine while drunk. He’s stripped of his powers by City Council but refuses to resign. In recent days, news of multiple videos of Ford under the influence have surfaced, including one where Ford makes sexually explicit and offensive comments about a female challenger in the mayoral race. NBC has not verified the authenticity of these videos, either.
That female challenger, City Councilman Karen Stinz, condemned Ford’s actions on Thursday.
“I hope he gets the help he needs,” she said at a press conference, but added that “there is no place in this city for sexism or homophobia especially in the mayors office. We need a mayor who can build communities and be a role model for our kids. The only people who can remove Rob Ford from office are the people of Toronto. I have faith in the people of Toronto that we will choose a better tomorrow.”
But Ford sounds hopeful that the city will stand with him through rehab and his October reelection race.
“I love the people of Toronto, I love being your mayor and I hope you will continue to stand by me,” he continued. “With the support of my family, friends, professionals and the people of Toronto, I will conquer this.”
Ford’s lawyer told Canada’s CTV, an NBC News partner, that the mayor plans to go to a “facility that assists people with substance abuse difficulties.”
“I think life is just overwhelming at this particular time,” the lawyer, Dennis Morris said.