TORONTO - As Toronto City Hall's first-ever "ass-gate" erupted, Mayor Rob Ford moved quickly to butt out the allegations, while his accuser Sarah Thomson blitzed media outlets across the city and wrapped up the day by offering to take a lie-detector test.
In what devolved over the course of the day into a bizarre case of "he said, she said," the mayor of Canada's largest city was accused Friday of allegedly grabbing the ass of the former mayoral rival, and making an inappropriate remark to her - all on the eve of International Women's Day.
While Ford came out in a statement calling Thomson's allegations false, the Women's Post publisher responded on Newstalk 1010's John Tory show offering to take a polygraph test to prove she was telling the truth.
"I would like to take a lie-detector test and prove to people he said it to me. I'd like him to come down with me, let's go down to the police station, let's get a lie-detector test and see who is telling the truth here," Thomson told Tory.
Thomson's scandalous allegations first came to light when she took to Facebook in the wee hours of Friday morning to blast Ford for making a crude comment to her and touching her inappropriately at a Thursday-night party held by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee at the Arcadian Court.
She also posted a photo of herself with a rough-looking Ford - the mayor's eyes were closed and he had a large stain on his shirt.
By the time the sun came up Friday, Thomson was on talk radio saying she wanted an apology from Ford. As the day wore on, two Richmond Hill councillors came forward challenging Thomson's version of events. Around noon, the mayor responded with a brief statement calling Thomson's allegations false and said he was "shocked, dismayed and surprised" by the claims.
"I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false," Ford stated. "What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe.
"This is a day we should all take the time to reflect upon the women in our lives and in our society. It is a day when we can envision the changes we want to make in our communities to ensure that all people are equal and that violence and discrimination against women comes to an end."
Ford was spotted leaving his home Friday afternoon but wasn't seen at his City Hall office all day.
A "shocked" Thomson said Friday morning she expected Ford to apologize.
"At the end of the day I hope he changes his behaviour and he doesn't do this to someone else," she said.
"I asked him why he wasn't at the mayor's roundtable (on transit) ... he was laughing and said, 'I was in Florida. You should have been with me, my wife wasn't there.'"
Thomson said she thought the comment was "weird."
"I just kind of fluffed it off and then we posed for a picture and he grabbed my ass and I said OK this is not Rob ... I thought there was something really wrong with him," she said.
During a scrum in front of City Hall, Thomson said she made the "sexual assault" allegations public so the issue would be addressed.
"At the end of the day I don't think it is a left-right issue, it is a right-wrong issue and we have to deal with that," she said.
"I think it is (sexual assault), definitely."
Thomson is currently the chair of the Toronto Transit Alliance. She faced off against Ford in the 2010 municipal election but dropped out before Election Day to throw her support behind his biggest rival - George Smitherman. In 2011, she unsuccessfully ran for the Ontario Liberals in the riding of Trinity-Spadina. She's told the Toronto Star earlier this year she plans to keep running for mayor until she wins.
Thomson denied her allegations had anything to do with politics.
"There is no election on right now, I'm working on you know the transit issue, the transit file," she said. "I have no gain out of this … but at the end of the day you have to do what is right."
Mark Towhey, Ford's chief of staff, was at the event with the mayor.
"I didn't hear the conversation. I can tell you I was there throughout, the mayor had me there plus three additional staff and a driver, the three staff were within earshot of him the entire time. They never heard any of this," Towhey said.
"The mayor commented about her still having the same (dreadlocks) hairstyle, they laughed. She asked him if he would support her subway tax, he said, no. I know that I was 20 feet away watching all of this stuff go down, she was very happy - it appeared to me as laughing and smiling."
Towhey stressed Ford was in Florida for the last week with his wife and children and confirmed no one complained to him or any other member of the mayor's staff at the event.
"The first that we heard she was concerned about anything at all was Twitter last night," he said.
The chief of staff said Ford had no alcohol to drink at the event.
"The only thing he drank when he was there was about four glasses of water that I brought him and a bottle of water that the staff had," he said. "It was hot and so he drank a lot of water."
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