Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had to apologize yet again on Monday — for knocking over a City Council member and giving her a fat lip as he rushed to help his brother during an "altercation."
"It was a complete accident," Ford said. "I sincerely apologize."
The incident happened during a raucous City Council meeting where lawmakers were debating a motion to strip him of much of his staff, budget and power for bad behavior.
Spectators shouted "Shame!" at the mayor during a recess, and at one point he suddenly charged through the crowded chamber, barreling into Councilor Pam McConnell, who was knocked off her feet.
Video of the mishap seemed to show Ford helping to pull the woman back up before he hurried away.
"I rushed over there because my brother was in an altercation," Ford said later when one of the lawmakers announced McConnell had a swollen lip and demanded an apology.
The moment captured the chaos and spectacle that has engulfed Ford — who has admitted smoking crack, driving drunk and buying illegal drugs, but has rejected calls to resign or take a leave.
Aaron Harris / Reuters
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts during a special council meeting at City Hall in Toronto November 18, 2013.
The 44-year-old mayor was predictably defiant as the Council began considering the latest in a series of measures that would turn him in a figurehead.
"It's a coup d'etat, that's all this is," Ford said as he arrived at City Hall.
"Is this an emergency?" Ford later demanded during a question-and-answer session about the motion.
A chorus of "Yes!" came from spectators behind him.
Just before the vote, Ford gave an impassioned speech in which he compared the Council to Saddam Hussein and himself to Kuwait. "This is going to be outright war," he said.
"You’re absolutely right I’m mad because every one of you guys have sinned!" he said, continuing to rant even as the microphone was cut. "What goes around comes around friends. Remember what I'm saying."
The mayor's chief defender was his politician brother Doug, who denounced the session as a "kangaroo court" and said if his colleagues wanted to get rid of the mayor, they should call an election.
Several legislators said the motion to sideline the mayor was un-democratic and would cause chaos in municipal government. Many expressed sympathy for Ford and urged him to get help.
“I believe the mayor is ill and I believe some of the decisions he’s made lately are because of that,” Mammoliti said. "I think you're addicted, Mr. Mayor."
Councilor Adam Vaughan agreed: "You need help and I hope that someone can convince you to get it.”
Councilor John Filion said Ford had given him and other legislators little choice but to sideline him.
"It's time to take away the keys," he said.
"The mayor can end the drama but he has chosen not to."
The sweeping measure under consideration Monday follows two other more-limited motions passed by an overwhelming vote on Friday.
While Ford was relatively subdued during last week's meeting, he regained his bluster over the weekend — giving interviews in which he insisted he's not an addict, and showing up for the third quarter of the Toronto Argonauts football playoff game even after the league asked him to stay away.
At the game, he was wearing the same jersey he had on last week when he shocked the city by using crude language on live television to deny an allegation that he pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex.
Despite his myriad confessions, the conservative-leaning mayor claims he's being persecuted for his efforts to curb the Council's tax-and-spend ways.
Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former Ford ally, said it had nothing to do with politics.
"Our mayor...the Argonauts don’t even want him to go the football game and they don’t want him to wear the jersey," he said.
"You, sir, have lost the ability to lead this city."
Doug Ford countered that his brother was treated like a hero by people in the stands.
“He couldn’t get out the door for three hours because they were surrounding him, cheering him on,” he said.
First published November 18 2013, 2:03 PM