Rob Ford's vote on Mandela honor draws gasps from lawmakers

Members of the media pursue Toronto Mayor Rob Ford outside City Hall on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Toronto Chris Young, AP

TORONTO -- What could be controversial about the city of Toronto congratulating Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes? Ask Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor.

Ford on Wednesday cast the sole "no" vote on a City Council motion to offer the athletes kudos. Minutes earlier, he also was the only council member to vote against a proposal to name a Toronto street after the late Nelson Mandela.

Ford asked for a re-vote on both motions a half-hour later but was denied.

"We all make errors," said Ford, who claimed he was stretching a sore back and voted quickly. "I guess I pushed the wrong button. Of course I support Nelson Mandela."

The mayor also said he supports Olympic athletes.

Ford is seeking re-election this year despite a record of erratic behavior. After he acknowledged last year that he had smoked crack, the City Council voted to strip him of most of his mayoral powers.

Ford is known for often casting the lone dissenting vote, but his votes on Wednesday drew gasps in the council chamber. City councilor Adam Vaughn said Ford knew exactly what he was doing.

"Everyone when he did it said, 'What are you doing, Rob?'" Vaughn said. "He shrugged his shoulders and let it go. And then a half-hour later, not immediately, a half-hour later, when Twitter and social media went off the charts, his staff came and said, 'You better fix this. You look like a fool.' Because you know what? He is one."

Ford denied it took him a half-hour to ask for a re-vote, saying he asked for it immediately. When reporters asked if he knew what he was voting on, Ford said, "Forget it, guys."

The mayor's brother, city councilor Doug Ford, defended him, saying voting errors are often made in council and no one should take offense.

"No one in this city supports the black community more than Rob Ford. No one. Bottom line. Zing. Done," Doug Ford said. "And no one supports the Olympic athletes more than Rob Ford."

On Tuesday, Ford didn't show for the council meeting until the afternoon. His chief of staff, Dan Jacobs, said he was feeling ill. Doug Ford said the mayor hurt his back lifting weights last Friday and was seeing a chiropractor.

In February, Ford told NBC's "Today" show that he goes to the gym daily and is in "great shape" heading into the campaign.

"Right after this interview, I'm dying to use the gym," he said.

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