Baltimore news anchor ‘saddened and shocked’ after she’s canned for controversial question about city’s mayors

(File Photo: screenshot)

A television anchor in Baltimore lost her job after 15 years following controversial questions she asked about the city’s recent mayors.

Mary Bubala confirmed that CBS affiliate WJZ-TV was “forced” to let her go after she ignited a firestorm with a question to Loyola University Maryland professor Karsonya Wise Whitehead which some viewers saw as “racist and sexist,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

“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 loved the people of Baltimore,” Bubala wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday, just days after her interview with Whitehead.

“…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,” the anchor for WJZ-TV’s 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts wrote. “Baltimore City has been my home for 25 years and I treasure and am so grateful for the relationships I have made with the people of Baltimore during this time.”

Amid the resignation of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who is under state and federal investigations into sales of her children’s book, Bubala asked Whitehead about the last three Baltimore mayors — Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Pugh.

“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?” she asked.

Whitehead did not agree that different leadership was needed, as she expressed in her response, but it was Bubala’s question that set off some viewers, including Nicki Mayo, the former president of the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists (BABJ), who posted the video clip to Twitter.

“Soooooo this happened following the resignation of #Baltimore Mayor #CatherinePugh. URGH! I’m not even sure I want to hear the excuse for this. I’m cringing and cursing,” Mayo tweeted.

As the uproar escalated over the journalist’s words, Bubala found herself apologizing several times on Twitter in hopes of clarifying her question.

In statements released on Thursday and Friday, the 49-year-old former anchor said she was “so deeply sorry and sincerely regret the words I chose,” as she asked viewers to give her a chance to regain their trust. But the backlash continued, with BABJ calling the apologies “unacceptable.”

“The question implies race and gender are qualifiers in one’s ability to lead while also demonizing African-Americans and women as poor leaders,” BABJ said in a statement. “…While Bubala apologized with a tweet May 3, there was no acknowledgment of the gaffe or apology on-air by her, WJZ-TV or CBS. This is unacceptable since the apology should be administered in the same fashion that the damaging question was delivered.”

Bubala, who won a regional Emmy Award for “Oustanding Anchor” in 2016, said she was unable to make an on-air apology.

“Last week I realized I made a mistake in the language I used on air. I immediately apologized for any hurt I unintentionally caused. I received immediate support from WJZ because they knew it was not in my heart to intentionally cause this kind of harm,”” she said in her Facebook statement on Monday. “I wanted to do an on-air apology but was not allowed. I hope that the people of Baltimore know that I would never do anything to hurt anyone.”

On Monday, an email by general manager Audra Swain sent to The Baltimore Sun said simply, “Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee. The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks.”

Whitehead issued her own statement to The Baltimore Sun saying “no one can ask racially biased questions in the public sphere.”

“The current conversations around leadership in Baltimore are challenging, emotional, and at times include layers of racism and sexism. There is an assumption that since three black women have served as mayor — and the city has not entirely changed for the better — then perhaps black women are not fit to lead this city,” Whitehead wrote Thursday. “No one can ask racially biased questions in the public sphere — including in the media — without being held accountable.”

Bubala vowed to “fight to restore” her reputation in her statement.

“I fully intend to fight to restore my reputation because I’ve invested my heart and soul in my work and my city. Thank you, Baltimore for all of your support during this difficult period of time. It means so much to me,” she said.

The longtime anchor found plenty of support amid the backlash, however, with many understanding her question and slamming the television station for its knee-jerk political correctness.

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Frieda Powers

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