TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford announced Thursday he's getting help from health care professionals but again refused to step aside over his drug use and drinking. He also threatened to take legal actions against former staffers who spoke to police about his behavior and denied making sexual advances toward a female staffer.
Ford, who has been under pressure to resign since admitting last week to smoking crack, used a typical mix of contriteness and angry defiance during several public appearances Thursday. At a City Council session, outraged councilors turned their backs on the mayor each time he spoke and again called on him to step aside.
Ford said at a news conference that he didn't want to comment on the particulars of the health care support he's receiving and asked for privacy for his family.
With his wife at his side, Ford also apologized for using coarse language to deny allegations that he once told a female staffer he wanted to have oral sex with her.
Ford said he was pushed "over the line" by newly released court documents that included allegations against him involving cocaine, escorts and prostitution. He called the allegations "100 per cent lies."
He said his integrity as a father and husband had been attacked, prompting him to "see red."
"I acted on complete impulse in my remarks," Ford said.
Hours earlier, Ford had drawn gasps from shocked reporters with his choice of words as he addressed the allegations about the oral sex remarks.
"I've never said that in my life to her, I would never do that," Ford said on live television.
The father of two school-age children said is "happily married" and used crude language to say he gets enough satisfaction at home.
Ford also said he would take legal action against his former chief of staff, Mark Towhey and two other aides over their interviews with police that were detailed in court documents released Wednesday. Ford did not specify what the aides might have said that was untrue. He also said he would take action against a waiter who said he believed Ford and a woman were snorting cocaine in a private room at a restaurant.
"I have to take legal action against the waiter who said I was doing lines," he said. "Outright lies, that is not true."
The conservative Ford, 44, was elected in 2010 on a wave of discontent from Toronto's outer suburbs over what voters considered wasteful spending and elitist, downtown-centric politics at City Hall. But his term has been consumed by revelations of bad behavior, from the crack smoking to threatening to kill someone in a videotaped, incoherent rant.
The court documents released Wednesday are part of a drug case against Ford's friend and occasional driver. Police interviews with Ford's ex-staffers revealed their concerns about his drug use and drunk driving, with one staffer alleging another staffer saw Ford "impaired, driving very fast," and frightening the female staffer who was in the car with him
In another incident, Ford was described by a former staff member as being "very inebriated, verbally abusive and inappropriate with" a female staff member on St. Patrick's Day. Another former staffer reported seeing the mayor drunk in his office about 15 to 20 times in the year he worked for him.
Ford acknowledged to reporters that he might have consumed alcohol while driving in the past. But he immediately went on the defense.
"I'm not perfect. Maybe you are but I'm not, OK?" he told journalists. "I know none of you guys have ever had a drink and got behind the wheel."
Later, many of Toronto's 44-member City Council turned their backs as the mayor spoke about city affairs. An ardent football fan, Ford wore a Toronto Argonauts football jersey and cowboy boots at the session, prompting a protest from the team.
"These latest remarks, while wearing our team's jersey, are particularly disappointing," the team said in a statement.
Ford later wore a suit and tie at the news conference where he apologized for his crudeness.
The council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to ask Ford to take a leave of absence, but the motion was non-binding because the council lacks the authority to force the mayor from office unless he is convicted of a crime. The council is set to consider another motion Friday to strip Ford of some of his powers.
"This is one of the most stubborn pig-headed people I think we have ever seen. He seems to have no self-awareness, no core of moral character. It is stunning, it is stunning" Councilor Janet Davis said.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday that the provincial government would be willing to step in and approve legislation to remove the mayor, but only if the council voted unanimously to seek that step and parties in the provincial legislature supported it.
"The things that we are hearing and seeing about Mayor Rob Ford are truly disturbing," Wynne said. But she added, the last thing "this terrible situation needs is an overlay of partisan politics."
City Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong had considered introducing a motion asking the province to intervene but decided against it because of lack of support from councilors who feared setting a dangerous precedent.