WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE OCT. 5 NEWS CONFERENCE?
First, let’s start what happened during the news conference. The question I was attempting to ask the mayor was regarding the Baltimore Police Department’s status as a state agency. What I wanted to know ultimately was how frustrating is it to want to reform your police department and you can’t do it as easily as the counties because you have to wait on the General Assembly? (exchange below)
After the news conference, I asked Anthony McCarthy for a couple of minutes, privately. Admittedly, I didn’t like how the mayor treated me.
In direct response to the mayor’s comments towards me, I said “you tell her that if I can’t explain something, I will say something. You know how combative she is with the media. I’m just asking a question about her job.” I walked away. That was it.
WHAT DID NOT HAPPEN DURING THE EXCHANGE WITH ANTHONY McCARTHY…AT ALL.
I never called Stephanie Rawlings- Blake out of her name at any time. I also heard a rumor I assaulted McCarthy; that never happened either. I never laid a finger on Anthony McCarthy at all. There was also no security involved when McCarthy and I had a chat after the news conference.
For those who have followed my career for the last decade, I often say that no matter who occupies the executive branch; that office needs to be respected.
What also did not happen is the account McCarthy gave to Current, a trade publication covering public media. I did not “[draw] more attention to himself by banging loudly on [my] computer.” It’s a keyboard for my iPad and iPhone to make tweeting easier. It is a keyboard that I’ve been using since the Freddie Gray case trials. It does click, but I was not trying to draw attention to myself.
Furthermore, I did not admit to McCarthy that I was angry; nor did I “[proceed] to curse [him] out,.” McCarthy did not warn me about previous disrespectful behavior. Truth be told, I had only been back to covering City Hall on a regular basis for about two months at that point.
For much of his tenure, beginning towards the end of April 2016 through the end of July 2016, I was covering the trials of Officers Edward Nero, Caesar Goodson and Lt. Brian Rice in the Freddie Gray case. In addition, there wasn’t an availability every Wednesday; neither did I attend all of them.
Also, at no point from when I began with WYPR in March 2013 until the point I was banned in October 2016 did anyone from the mayor’s office contact my station about my behavior. I did not receive as much as a warning.
WILL YOU SUE STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE FOR DEFAMATION?
The answer is no. This is based on legal advice that I received.
First, there is court precedent from 2006. Former Md. Gov. Bob Ehrlich instituted a ban against Baltimore Sun writers David Nitkin and Michael Olesker accusing them of unfair coverage of his administration. The Sun sued and lost because – according to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – the reporters “have not been chilled to any substantial degree in their reporting, as they have continued to write stories for The Sun, to comment, to criticize, and otherwise to speak with the full protection of the First Amendment.”
Remember, my ban was from one news conference – the mayoral briefing following the Board of Estimates – for allegedly being threatening to her and her staff.
The second part is the high bar to prove defamation. I have to prove that my reputation and character was damaged. Simply put, it wasn’t damaged. The outpouring of support from colleagues past and present from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. was very heartwarming. And those who defended me were absolutely amazing at the task.
In addition, because of my modest salary, attempting a defamation suit would be too costly and – in the long run – it wouldn’t have been worth it.
SOME HEARTFELT THANK YOUs
I would like to thank Paul Gessler from FOX45 for staying on the story and asking the critical question “What is she alleging he did?”
Thank you to those of you who supported me on twitter and facebook; through #FreeKenny.
Thanks to those who went on the defense for me, particularly Bryan Sears and Charles Robinson, The Baltimore Sun and Daily Record editorial boards.
For those who cracked the jokes; desperately needed jokes for a hard time; thank you.
To all mentioned in this section, I humbly offer my heartfelt thank you. Your acceptance of me is touching and I’m grateful.
REGARDING THE FORMER MAYOR
In defense of the former mayor, she has balked at questions before. Not just mine, but a number of other local reporters. In fact, I did a story about that.
I treated her with the same professional courtesy as the local and state politicians I have covered in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County before I moved professionally to Baltimore.
Am I disappointed with how everything ended? Yes; especially in this case of an African-American comfortably making an accusation with no merit towards another African-American. And knowing what type of effect the allegation can have on the target. It’s sad that I 2016, black men still have to deal with such stereotypes. Thank God that my reputation was not damaged behind it.
Was I upset that she accused my colleagues of circling the wagons to protect me? Yes. Reporters value their reputations for being honest. They have no reason to lie for my sake. It should be noted that Paul Gessler did try to seek the truth directly from her. And for his trouble, Gessler was brushed off.
It appears that the reason I was not allowed in the room was because she has taken to a personal dislike of me. That is truly unfortunate. I respected the fact that she was not only mayor but had to come in at a troubling time for Baltimore. She could have said, I do not want the job permanently in 2011. But she said decided to make a go at it.
She didn’t have a manual on how to manage a city during and after a riot. She did not have a manual on how to reform a police department that you don’t have a whole lot of control over. And there was no manual on her desk on how to manage a big city still reeling from the aftereffects of a racially charged riot from 1968.
No, she did not have those manuals; that’s because no such manuals exist. She did the best job she could under the circumstances she was dealing with.
This may be hard for some to believe, but I do not hold a grudge against former Mayor Rawlings-Blake. She had a difficult job going in and during her term. I wish her well in her newly launched venture and her other future endeavors.
Click Here to return to the first part of “Not Cuddly. Not Threatening Either.”