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Ford quiet as he takes leave

Mayor Rob Ford left home Thursday without speaking to reporters hours after announcing that he's taking leave to deal with his substance-abuse problems amid a triple dose of scandalizing revelations.

Confronted with reports of a recent video showing him allegedly smoking crack cocaine, an audio recording of the mayor drunk, spewing profanities and making lewd comments about a fellow mayoral contender, and witness accounts of him snorting cocaine at a city nightclub, Ford said he would be seeking "immediate help."

It was not immediately clear where the mayor was headed as he left his west-end house in a two-vehicle convoy.

In its report, the Globe and Mail said a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters a video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack in the basement of his sister's home early Saturday morning.

American online site Gawker.com said a dealer had tried to sell three videos taken in the basement for "six figures." Gawker, which first broke word of a video purportedly showing Ford smoking crack cocaine a year ago, obtained frame grabs showing the mayor holding a copper pipe.

The Globe said it paid $10,000 for similar photos.

In an audio recording from a bar obtained by the Toronto Sun, Ford is heard making anti-gay remarks, using an offensive ethnic slur and saying he would like to "jam" rival candidate Karen Stintz.

The mayor said he didn't remember the events but confirmed he was at the bar that night, the Sun reported.

In a third report, the Toronto Star published details of "two nights of utter debauchery" involving Ford at a Toronto nightclub a few weeks ago.

At one point, the paper said, Ford almost got into an altercation with pop idol Justin Bieber, who jokingly asked the mayor if he had any crack cocaine with him.

Ford has steadfastly refused to step down and had insisted for months that he is neither an addict nor an alcoholic.

But in a statement issued late Wednesday, Ford said "I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence."

"I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100 per cent committed to getting myself right."

Despite his announced leave from both the mayor's office and his re-election campaign, Ford will apparently remain in the running for October's municipal vote.

Jackie DeSouza, Toronto's communications director, confirmed Thursday that Ford had written the city clerk about the leave but gave no indication of how long he might be away.

That leaves Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who has essentially been performing Ford's duties since council stripped Ford of most of his mayoral duties last year, now firmly in charge — at least for the time being.

"There are things in this tape that people can't live with in their mayor of this city drunk or sober," Coun. Shelley Carroll said Thursday.

Stintz was also quick to condemn Ford's audiotaped remarks.

"This is the not the first time that Rob Ford has made misogynistic comments," she said in a statement.

"That a sitting mayor would make such shocking and bigoted remarks is disgusting."

Last year, Ford admitted to using used crack cocaine while in a "drunken stupor" but has long since said he had cleaned up his act and was working out.

However, he has been forced to admit to drinking after an earlier videotaped incident in which he used Jamaican swear words and slagged the city's chief of police.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn said Thursday the Ford embroglio has been a lengthy distraction.

"Rob Ford needs to deal with his personal issues," she said. "I have been and will continue to deal with deputy mayor (Norm) Kelly."

Ford came under police investigation following a guns and gangs probe, which turned up wiretaps that allegedly captured conversations about the first "crack" video.

A friend of Ford's has been charged with extortion related to attempts to retrieve the video.

Asked to comment on reports of the latest video, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said "investigators would be interested to see the new information."

The Canadian Press

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