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Embattled Toronto mayor's press aides leave posts

TORONTO -- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's press advisers are the latest to leave their jobs as questions continue to swirl about a video that purportedly shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine.

The mayor of Canada's largest city said outside his office yesterday that press secretary George Christopoulos and deputy press secretary Isaac Ransom had decided to leave, but he declined to say why. Ford fired his chief of staff last week.

Ford also apologized for calling journalists "a bunch of maggots" on his weekly radio show on Sunday.

"I sincerely apologize to each and every one of you," Ford told reporters. The smoking video has not been released publicly, and its authenticity has not been verified. Reports on gossip website Gawker and in the Toronto Star said it was taken by men who said they had sold drugs to Ford. The Associated Press hasn't seen the video.

Ford had refused to take questions from the media for more than a week but took a couple of questions yesterday before saying he had to leave for a meeting.

On Friday, he read a statement to reporters in which he denied using or being addicted to crack cocaine.

Some critics of Ford have called on him to step down, but he vowed on Sunday to seek re-election next year.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, a close Ford ally, told the AP that the mayor's office was already thin.

"I don't know what to say to the mayor at this point," Holyday said when asked what advice he has for Ford.

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