TORONTO - The Toronto Star gave Mayor Rob Ford more than a dozen chances to respond to allegations that he was filmed smoking what appears to be crack cocaine before publishing a front-page story about the scandal, the newspaper's editor-in-chief said Monday.
Michael Cooke defended the Star's reporting of the story before the Ontario Press Council, which is looking into reader complaints about the coverage.
Cooke told the three-member panel that reporters made at least 14 attempts to reach the mayor the night before the story was published.
They made phone calls, sent emails and even travelled to the mayor's west-end home and that of his brother, Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, in an effort to get a response, Cooke said.
Letters detailing the allegations also were left at both homes that night, the paper said.
Cooke said Ford — who did not attend Monday's hearing — has yet to substantively address the allegations and has instead spent recent months "ducking and dodging" questions on the issue.
"Mayor Ford knows whether he smoked crack in that video or not," he told the panel.
The mayor "still owes Toronto a full answer" on the allegations, he added.
The council is weighing whether the newspaper ''engaged in irresponsible, unethical investigative reporting.''
A second hearing is scheduled this afternoon to address complaints against a Globe and Mail article about the alleged drug dealings of Ford's brother — Toronto city councillor Doug Ford.
The independent press council says the two complaints will stand in for the dozens filed against the newspapers over their coverage of the Fords.
The Fords maintain they are being unfairly targeted by the media, particularly the Toronto Star.
The complaint centres on a Star article from May 16, 2013, called ''Rob Ford in 'crack cocaine' video scandal.''
The story said two of the newspaper's reporters had viewed a cellphone video taken by a drug dealer that apparently showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic slurs.
It followed a similar one by the U.S. gossip website Gawker.
Ford has said he does not smoke crack cocaine and that the video does not exist.
A second hearing will focus on an article published in the Globe and Mail on May 25, 2013.
The investigative piece alleged that Doug Ford had, in his youth, been a drug dealer in west-end Toronto. He has been dismissive of the allegations.
The council panel will determine whether the articles were in the public interest, whether the newspapers made adequate efforts to verify the accuracy of the allegations, and if the Fords were given a proper chance to respond.
It will also decide if the Globe was right to include other Ford family members in its story.
After hearing submissions from the complainants and the newspapers, the council panel will deliberate in private.
Its findings and recommendations will be presented to the full council later this month and its decision will be made public.
The parent companies of both the Star and the Globe and Mail hold an ownership stake in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with the corporate parent company of Montreal's La Presse.
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