Baltimore News Anchor Fired After Tone-Deaf Question About Former Mayors Is Called Out For Being Racist And Sexist
Catherine Pugh, the former mayor of Baltimore, was recently forced out of her position in the midst of a self-dealing scandal related to her children's book.
It seems, however, that this story is like a magnet for career-ending mistakes.
While interviewing someone about former Mayor Pugh, one Baltimore news anchor made a comment that ultimately lead to her firing.
During the newscast, anchor Mary Bubala was interviewing Loyola University Maryland professor Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead.
She asked the professor:
"We've had three female African American mayors in a row. They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned, though. Is this a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?"
Video of the question quickly went viral.
Soooooo this happened following the resignation of #Baltimore Mayor #CatherinePugh. URGH!🤦🏾♀️🤦🏾♂️🤷🏾♀️🤷🏾♂️ I'm n… https://t.co/Me6Adx6fM8— Nicki Mayo (@Nicki Mayo) 1556900613.0
Bubala quickly offered an apology via Twitter.
A sincere apology https://t.co/gV4dz7CFkd— Mary Bubala (@Mary Bubala) 1556915184.0
@BlayzBrooks @wjz I am so very sorry. The way my question came out was not what I intended to ask because race and… https://t.co/851m1ZEaAV— Mary Bubala (@Mary Bubala) 1556847681.0
The Baltimore Association of Black Journalists felt that Bubala's apology didn't go far enough, as it wasn't made on the air.
The BABJ also issued a statement elaborating on why the question was so harmful:
"This question implies race and gender are qualifiers in one's ability to lead while also demonizing African-Americans and women as poor leaders. We feel certain Bubala would not have asked this same question of white male leadership."
"Moreover, the implicit bias present in Bubala's interview should be addressed company-wide at WJZ-TV, with a concerted effort to avoid marginalizing by race and gender, particularly in a city whose population reflects its leadership demographics."
Like #RealTalk folks, you're seriously cursing me for pointing out the problem. We @BABJ_md called for an on-air ap… https://t.co/css2TiKjKV— Nicki Mayo (@Nicki Mayo) 1557284189.0
It seems that Bubala's words were too little too late.
Shortly thereafter, WJZ general manager Audra Swain announced the anchor had been fired.
"Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee. The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks."
"In my 22 years of working in TV news in Baltimore—15 of those years with WJZ—I have always treated people with the utmost respect and dignity. I loved my job because I love the people of Baltimore. Last week I realized I made a mistake in the language I used on air. I immediately apologized for any hurt I unintentionally caused."
"Unfortunately, I now stand in the path of the tornado. WJZ was forced to let me go. I am saddened and shocked by this decision [...] I fully intend to fight to restore my reputation because I've invested my heart and soul in my work and my city."
@rachbarnhart The question does not even make sense. What does gender or race have to do with competency and integr… https://t.co/jc7myTNPrA— Phillip M. Dampier (@Phillip M. Dampier) 1557317832.0
Many former city officials responded to Bubala's firing positively, including Pugh's predecessor, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Didn’t think WJZ was gong to do the right thing. Her statement was problematic on many levels and revealed a profou… https://t.co/eghTRKPizq— Stephanie (SRB) (@Stephanie (SRB)) 1557238310.0
Former BABJ president Nicki Mayo also commented on the firing to The Sun, noting it was for the best:
"This was another ceremonial falling on the sword that continues to cut a serious hole in efforts for newsroom inclusion and diversity. She messed up. I get it. But you know that line, 'The mouth speaks the truth of the heart?' She told you how she feels."
Twitter was ashamed of Bubala's line of on-air questioning.
@HuffPost Her new series on Fox News starts next week— Wheeee! (@Wheeee!) 1557282290.0
@HuffPost It seems there is a pattern in the leadership in that city. I think the question was legitimate but could… https://t.co/s3hLWGMaz2— Martin Devlin (@Martin Devlin) 1557304618.0
It makes so much sense now! The last 3 Baltimore mayoral terms were bad, not due to failed policy or corruption: T… https://t.co/PCquhehmdi— The Most Fingerwaviest (@The Most Fingerwaviest) 1557328728.0
@HuffPostPol What did we learn from that? That all politicians are crooked? That black people are? That women are?… https://t.co/eTDkPCLhRf— Thora Borg (@Thora Borg) 1557303832.0
@HuffPostPol Dear Ms. Bubala: skin color and gender are not "kinds of leadership"...Management 001— Charles Lerche (@Charles Lerche) 1557310713.0
Bubala has worked for WJZ since 2003 and has been nominated for several local Emmys since that time.
That just goes to show:
ignorance isn't a good look on anybody.