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Mayor Rob Ford takes break from campaign to seek help for alcohol abuse

By Faith Karimi and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 7:07 AM EDT, Thu May 1, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • His break comes after a new report linked him to substance abuse
  • The report surfaced on Canadian media
  • "It's not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life," Ford says

(CNN) -- Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he is taking a break from his re-election campaign to seek help for alcohol abuse -- hours after a local newspaper reported on a new video that allegedly shows him smoking crack cocaine.

"It's not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life," Ford said in a statement Wednesday. "I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time."

The statement, provided to CNN by Canada's CTV News, comes after the Toronto Globe and Mail reported on the new video.

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In the video purportedly filmed Saturday, the newspaper reports Ford is seen smoking what a drug dealer described to the paper as crack cocaine from a copper-colored pipe. Two Globe and Mail reporters viewed the video, and the publication said it was shot in what appears to be Ford's sister's basement.

The paper said the substance in the pipe could not be confirmed.

The video is part "of a package of three videos the dealer said was surreptitiously filmed around 1:15 a.m., and which he says he is now selling for 'at least six figures,'" the paper reported.

Leave is immediate

Shortly after the newspaper confronted the Mayor about the video, Ford announced he was taking a break to get help.

"Today, after taking some time to think about my own well-being, how to best serve the people of Toronto and what is in the best interests of my family, I have decided to take a leave from campaigning and from my duties as mayor to seek immediate help," he said.

His lawyer, Dennis Morris, told CNN that Ford's leave begins immediately.

"He has to take a break to re-energize, because he realizes he has flaws that have to be addressed," Morris told CTV.

But Morris told the Globe that he questioned the authenticity of the video, and said it is hard to prove what the Mayor is smoking.

"If these guys are drug dealers and there's money involved, they can say whatever they want to get more money, to extract more money from the people who are paying," he said of the seller.

The Globe said it did not buy the video, adding it purchased screen grabs from the three clips.

Fall from grace

Ford's fall from grace started in May 2013 when a cell phone video taken months earlier appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine.

Despite intense public pressure, he remained defiant and denied using any illicit drugs. In November, the city council stripped him of most of his power as mayor.

That didn't stop Ford, though. He ignored calls to enter rehab or resign, instead vowing "outright war" on the city council.

"If you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait," he said then to groans and laughter in the city council chambers.

Seeking another term

And none of this stopped Ford from seeking another term in office, something he's done for the past few months despite continued public ridicule and other challenges.

In January, he admitted he had suffered a "minor setback" after a video posted on social media showed him babbling about the city's police chief while at a fast-food restaurant.

Again, he insisted that he'd had a small amount to drink, but he hadn't taken any drugs.

"As you know, I'm a human being -- the same as every one of you," he told reporters at the time. "And I'm entitled to a personal life, and my personal life does not interfere with the work I do, day-in and day-out, for the taxpayers of this great city."

CNN's Catherine Shoichet contributed to this report

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