Canada Is Still Two Decades Behind the U.S. on Video of Mayors Smoking Crack

Toronto police finally have video of Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack. But D.C. was way ahead of the trend.

Marion Barry attends the 55th Anniversary of Ben's Chili Bowl on August 22, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Oct. 31, 2013, 8:56 a.m.

The Rob Ford crack saga ap­pears to be near­ing the end in Toronto. After months of ru­mors, Toronto po­lice said Thursday they have fi­nally re­covered video of May­or Ford smoking crack co­caine. “It’s safe to say the may­or does ap­pear in the video,” Toronto Po­lice Chief Bill Blair told re­port­ers.

Ford has long been adam­ant that such a video doesn’t ex­ist. But a po­lice in­vest­ig­a­tion began months ago after two re­port­ers from the Toronto Star re­por­ted see­ing foot­age fea­tur­ing the may­or smoking while mak­ing ho­mo­phobic and ra­cist slurs. The may­or has so far re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about the po­lice ap­par­ently pos­sess­ing the video, in­stead yelling at a pho­to­graph­er at his home Thursday morn­ing to “get off my prop­erty, part­ner!” It’s not yet clear what Ford’s next steps will be.

The video hasn’t ac­tu­ally been re­leased yet, and it could wind up be­ing totally en­gross­ing, but Mari­on Barry had one of the best may­ors-smoking-crack videos of all time. Yes, even in ter­rible scan­dal, Canada is still dec­ades be­hind the United States of Amer­ica.

A re­fresh­er for those of you who need it: In Janu­ary 1990, an FBI sting op­er­a­tion bus­ted Wash­ing­ton, D.C. May­or Mari­on Barry smoking crack co­caine. The 83-minute video, which was watched by jur­ors in Barry’s tri­al on drug-pos­ses­sion charges, fea­tured a furi­ous may­or yelling about the wo­man he was with. “Bitch set me up,” he in­fam­ously com­plained.

Some of that foot­age is avail­able here, but, for reas­ons that re­main un­clear, it is only avail­able in French (which, if we’re be­ing hon­est here, is ac­tu­ally pretty great).

Barry, who had been may­or since 1979, was con­victed and served six months in pris­on. But here’s where Canada could learn a les­son: Amer­ica doesn’t back down and apo­lo­gize. After fin­ish­ing his sen­tence, Barry won elec­tion to the city coun­cil with 91 per­cent of the vote. He served on the coun­cil un­til, amaz­ingly, re­turn­ing to his pri­or perch as may­or, from 1995 un­til 1999. Barry re­mains in D.C. gov­ern­ment as a mem­ber of the coun­cil, where he has amassed new low-lights, such as say­ing that Asi­an-Amer­ic­an busi­nesses, “those dirty shops,” “ought to go.”

Barry, for his part, told The Wash­ing­ton City Pa­per in May that his case isn’t like Ford’s. “Un­less he was en­trapped by the gov­ern­ment, it’s not sim­il­ar,” he said.

So while the Rob Ford news is reas­on­ably as­ton­ish­ing, al­though maybe not as much as it would’ve been be­fore all the ru­mors, it def­in­itely isn’t un­pre­ced­en­ted. Even on crack-smoking may­ors, Canada just can’t es­cape its south­ern neigh­bor’s sad, sad shad­ow.

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