Editor writes that he's been told the video allegedly showing Toronto's mayor smoking crack is no longer available.
Gawker editor John Cook—who was the first to publish a story about a cellphone video which apparently shows Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking out of a crack pipe while making racist and homophobic slurs—is now reporting that the video is no longer available.
Cook first described the video in a post published on May 16; that was followed a few hours later by a report from the Toronto Star, in which two of that paper’s reporters described watching the same video. The video’s owner was demanding a six figure sum (first $100,000, then $200,000) in exchange for the footage, both outlets said—an amount the Star declined to pay and that Gawker couldn’t raise on its own. This was followed, in case you haven’t been following all the twists in this particular bit of insanity, by a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money. Seemingly to their surprise, Gawker actually succeeded in raising $200,000 from the public, and has since been trying to reconnect with the video’s owner, via the intermediary who first got in touch with them.
For a while there was silence. And then last Friday, Cook wrote in a post this evening, he heard from the intermediary, who got in touch to say that he had finally heard from the video’s owner. The update? “It’s gone. Leave me alone.”
Cook is attributing this to two things. One is his sense that the video’s owner did not anticipate the epic controversy that would result when news of the video broke. (Um, really?) The second is anger in the Somali community based in Etobicoke, where the video was reportedly shot, in the wake of the Toronto Star‘s rather notable emphasis on the national origins of the people apparently involved. The combination of those two factors, Cook writes, “led the owner of the video to go to ground and soured the owner’s relationship with the intermediary.” He adds that “I have heard independently from others familiar with the goings-on in Toronto that leaders in its Somali community have determined who the owner is and brought intense pressure to bear on him and his family.”
Cook also points out that saying the video is “gone” leaves things up in the air, as it’s unclear whether that means the video was destroyed, obtained by another purchaser, collected by police, or handed over to somebody else for safekeeping. For his part Michael Cooke, editor of the Toronto Star, told a reporter just yesterday that he believes “the video is slowly making its way to daylight.”
Gawker, writes its editor, is still hoping the video will surface, and is still offering the proceeds of its Crackstarter campaign in exchange for the footage. If that doesn’t happen “soon,” however, the website will instead direct the money to a local non-profit that works on substance abuse issues.
So, essentially: a crowdfunded campaign to buy a video showing Toronto’s mayor allegedly smoking crack from unidentified people who have a lot to risk if they are publicly exposed has hit a roadblock. Shocking, we know.