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TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford left home Thursday bound for rehab hours after announcing plans to deal with his substance-abuse problems amid a triple dose of scandalizing revelations that have raised further questions about his fitness for office.
Confronted with reports of a recent video showing him allegedly smoking crack cocaine, an audio recording of the mayor spewing profanities and making lewd comments about a fellow mayoral contender, and witness accounts of him snorting cocaine at a city nightclub, Ford took a leave of absence to seek "immediate help."
"He's a broken man. He's got a lot of demons," Ford's lawyer Dennis Morris told The Canadian Press.
"He realizes that he's not well and in need of help. He's just running off the rails. That's something he now appreciates."
Ford did not speak to reporters in front of his home as he left in a two-car convoy Thursday morning.
Morris said Ford flew to Chicago, but he is not in a program in that city. Morris would not say if Ford has enrolled in a rehabilitation program elsewhere.
CBC cited Coun. Doug Ford as saying his brother would be spending 30 days at an unspecified addictions facility, but Morris said the mayor would stay in a program no matter how many days it lasted.
At a news conference, an emotional Doug Ford said facing your problems and deciding to seek help is not easy and that he loves and supports his brother and his family.
The scandal-plagued mayor's latest woes began late Wednesday, with a trio of damaging newspaper reports that raised new questions about his conduct.
The Globe and Mail said a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack in the basement of his sister's home early Saturday morning.
The paper said it paid $10,000 for frame grabs showing Ford holding a copper pipe.
American website Gawker.com, which first broke word of a video purportedly showing Ford smoking crack cocaine a year ago, published similar photos. Gawker said it had rejected a drug dealer's request for "six figures" for videos.
Morris said it was not possible to know what was in the pipe seen in the photographs.
Then, in an audio recording at a bar obtained by the Toronto Sun, Ford is heard making anti-gay remarks, using an ethnic slur, and saying he would like to "jam" rival candidate Karen Stintz.
The mayor said he didn't remember the events Monday night but confirmed being at the bar, the Sun reported.
In a third report based on sources, the Toronto Star published details of "two nights of utter debauchery" involving Ford at a Toronto nightclub a few weeks ago.
At one point, Ford almost got into an altercation with pop idol Justin Bieber, who jokingly asked the mayor if he had any crack cocaine with him, the paper said.
The Canadian Press has not independently verified the various reports. The owner of the nightclub issued a statement saying he had not seen Ford using illegal drugs and did not condone their use.
Ford has steadfastly refused to step down and had insisted for months he is neither an addict nor an alcoholic.
That changed late Wednesday.
"I have a problem with alcohol and the choices I have made while under the influence," he said in a statement.
"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 leave from both the mayor's office and his re-election campaign, Ford will apparently remain in the running for October's municipal vote.
Ford critics and supporters took to social media with gusto.
"Unfit for office," one person tweeted. "Rob and Doug Ford have lied for almost four years to the citizens of Toronto. Why should they be believed now?" another said.
Others were supportive, with one calling the media "cockroaches" in a tweet.
"I love Rob Ford. He's one of us! Leave the man alone," another tweeted.
"He is human and not made of plastic," said yet another.
Even with such support, pollster John Wright said the latest revelations will likely hurt his re-election chances.
"He was losing before this episode," Wright said. "He will continue in that regard."
The main question, Wright said, was whether rival John Tory could use Ford's absence to appropriate the mayor's tax-busting mantra.
Jackie DeSouza, Toronto's communications director, said the mayor had notified the city about the leave but not its duration.
That left Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who has been doing most of Ford's job since council stripped him of most of his mayoral duties last year, firmly in charge.
Kelly denounced Ford's misbehaviour as "inexcusable" and called the situation a "personal tragedy," not a "crisis of government."
Ford's main left-wing mayoral rival for the October vote, Olivia Chow, called the mayor an international embarrassment.
"It's clear Mr. Ford is sick," Chow said Thursday. "As a mayor, however, he had his chance."
Stintz condemned Ford's audiotaped "misogynistic" and "disgusting" comments.
Last year, Ford admitted smoking crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor" but later said he had cleaned up his act and was working out.
However, he was forced to admit he had resumed drinking after another videotaped incident in which he used Jamaican swear words and slagged the city's police chief.
Police began investigating Ford after a guns and gangs probe turned up wiretaps that allegedly captured conversations about the first "crack" video. A friend of Ford's is charged with extortion related to attempts to retrieve the video.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said "investigators would be interested to see the new information."
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