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Rob Ford to take break from mayor's office, campaign to get help

By Faith Karimi, Greg Botelho and Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 6:57 PM EDT, Thu May 1, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Lawyer says Rob Ford goes to Chicago, doesn't specify why
  • Rob Ford's brother Doug: "This is not an easy thing for anyone to do"
  • His break comes after a new report linked him to substance abuse
  • "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 and his mayoral duties 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.

In an emotional news conference Thursday, Ford's brother, Doug, said it was "one of the toughest days of my life" but that he was relieved his brother was finally getting help.

"As an older brother, I am relieved that Rob has faced his problems and has decided to seek professional help," said Doug Ford, Jr., a Toronto city councillor. "This is not an easy thing for anyone to do, especially when you're the mayor of the city."

He added, "Rob was very emotional when he told me the hardest thing about this is he knows he let people down. He let his family down. He let his friends down. He let his colleagues down. He let his supporters down and the people of Toronto."

Doug Ford choked back tears at the end of his news conference. He did not say where his brother will seek help.

"I love my brother," he said. "I'll continue to stand by my brother and his family through this difficult journey."

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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.

On Thursday, Ford's opponents in the race for mayor said the embattled politician should have stepped down long ago. The election is October 27.

Olivia Chow wished him strength in his recovery but said: "It's obvious that Mr. Ford is a sick man. It's obvious that he has a serious substance abuse problem."

His leave, she said, comes too late.

"He had his chance," Chow said. "Last year, everyone said he needs to get help. He didn't. The time to take a leave of absence was last year."

Chow and another candidate, Karen Stintz, also criticized Ford for comments attributed to him in an audio recording that was posted on a Toronto newspaper's website.

CNN has not confirmed that the voice on the recording obtained by the Toronto Sun is Ford's. The mayor told a Sun columnist, "I wouldn't say that ... I am appalled."

In the recording, reportedly made Monday, a male voice is heard saying of Stintz: "I'd like to f****** jam her."

"I am disappointed by the misogynistic language used by Rob Ford," Stintz told reporters. "The only people who can remove Rob Ford from office are the people of Toronto. I have faith in the people of this city. Rob Ford is not Toronto. We need to move forward."

Leave is immediate

Shortly after the newspaper confronted the mayor about the alleged crack smoking 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.

Morris then told CNN on Friday that Ford had flown to Chicago, though he wouldn't comment on what the mayor was doing there -- including whether or not he'd go into rehab in that city or nearby.

Earlier, 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.

Robyn Doolittle, a writer with The Globe, told CNN's Ashleigh Banfield that she watched the video.

"We, of course, have no way to know what is in the pipe but you can see from his behavior that he's clearly impaired," she said. "As he inhales and exhales, his right arm starts to shake."

Doolittle said the video shows Ford smoking from a long copper pipe that appears modified with an "aluminum dome" over the bowl for smoking crack.

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 Paula Newton and Catherine Shoichet contributed to this report

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