City Desk

Crack-Smoking Mayors: Not Just for D.C. Anymore

Gawker broke the news yesterday that colorful Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can reportedly be seen smoking crack cocaine on a cell phone video, as long as you're willing to pay $100,000 for the tape. While this will have some impact on Canada, probably something to do with moose and ketchup-flavored chips, it means something else for the District: Finally, we're not the only city whose mayor has been caught on tape smoking crack.

I asked Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry—convicted in 1990 for misdemeanor drug possession—for his take on Ford, but the D.C. councilmember says his own videotaped crack use is too different from Ford's reported tape to compare.

"Unless he was entrapped by the government, it's not similar," Barry says. Barry declined to offer advice for Ford, saying that he's too focused on the residents of Ward 8.

Without Barry, it falls to us to glean lessons for Ford from Barry's scandal. First, it's worth noting, as Barry does, that there are differences. Barry's downfall came at the hands of the FBI as part of a lengthy investigation, while Ford appears to have been videotaped by Somali-Canadian drug dealers. But the embattled Toronto mayor, currently lying low, could learn a lot from Barry.

• Trust Your Gut

This comes too late for Ford, but crack-smoking mayors seem to have a special ability to suss out when they're being videotaped. In their book Dream City, Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe describe Barry worrying about "Nosey Rosies" just before smoking crack at the Vista International Hotel with former lover Rasheeda Moore. "He knew that a hotel room was a perfect place to set him up," Sherwood and Jaffe write.

Ford also seemed to sense that he was being filmed, warning the cell phone operator that the phone ought to be turned off. If only the boisterous mayor had trusted his instincts.

• Don't Mount A Comeback Too Soon

Just two weeks after he was sentenced to six months in jail, Barry tried to regain public office, running as an independent in the at-large race. But the bad feelings from his trial were still around, and Barry came in third. Ford hasn't lost his mayoralty yet, but if he does, he's got to lay low for a while—maybe by coaching the football team of "f—ing minorities" he reportedly describes on the tape.

• Tweet About Scandal

Nowadays, Barry passes the time when he's not in the Wilson Building by watching a popular television show (and singing blues at Madam's Organ). Ford could do the same, getting re-elected to represent the suburban voters who love him and tweeting about a Canadian TV showmaybe Degrassi?

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  1. #1

    Apart from our dysfunctional buffoon of a mayor, Toronto is a lovely, liveable city of almost 6 million people. I am sick and tired of the disrespectful and condescending comments I read in U.S. newspapers - yours ("something to do with moose and ketchup flavored chips...")being the most recent. Enough of the know-nothing cheap shots, already!

  2. #2

    On an important side note, there is nothing Canadian about Ketchup Chips. Moose, yes. But Ketchup Chips? Come on, everybody knows that Canadians prefer dressed all-over chips.

  3. #3

    Until we are shown a video which is verified as true and unedited, Ford is innocent. Pretty much yellow journalism running with an unverifiable video being shopped around by drug dealers.

  4. #4

    "---minorities"? Even racism sounds polite north of the border.

  5. #5

    Torontonian here. I'm a bit embarrassed at the thin skin some of the previous commentators are showing. I personally love ketchup potato chips and have no shame in being associated with them. And moose are majestic animals. No insult taken there. Also finally happy that my beloved city has an interesting political scandal - this is really going to help us shed our imagine as a bit of a staid city where nothing interesting happens. Rob Ford has been a barrel of laughs and I genuinely hope he gets 4 more years so we can continue it - the mayor of Toronto has very little power anyway, and city council is doing a fine job running things without him.

  6. #6


  7. IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    I agree with Iris, I'm sick of hearing about baffoon Marion Barry.

  8. #8

    Speak for yourself Patrick, I am one Canadian who is disgusted with Rob Ford's racism and homophobia. Ford is a disgrace to Toronto and has made the city look like a joke. I sincerely hope the video is released and that piece of trash is kicked out of office.

  9. #9

    It's about time other Drug Using Politicians were finally exposed. But like Barry says, "Unless he was entrapped by the government, it's not similar.

    I hope CP, WP, Examiner and other news outlets will END their relentless attacks with old NEWS about Marion Barry.

    Leave Barry alone and focus on users in high, HIGH-PLACES!

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