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.
Baltimore TV anchor Mary Bubala has been dropped by WJZ-TV after asking the following question on-air about “female, African American mayors” pic.twitter.com/mGX1vv3FFl
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) May 8, 2019
“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.
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?. (Reposting ?video from @AndreShowell) pic.twitter.com/DPZfdnedFP
— Nicki Mayo (@nickimayonews) May 3, 2019
As the uproar escalated over the journalist’s words, Bubala found herself apologizing several times on Twitter in hopes of clarifying her question.
I am so very sorry. The way my question came out was not what I intended to ask because race and gender are irrelevant to one’s leadership abilities. I combined two questions in my head during a live interview and said something I didn’t mean to.
— Mary Bubala (@MaryWJZ) May 3, 2019
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.”
A sincere apology pic.twitter.com/gV4dz7CFkd
— Mary Bubala (@MaryWJZ) May 3, 2019
“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.”
So, you take no joy in a journalist not working, but you hyperblasted the video until it went viral. Got it.
Mary Bubala was right. It IS time for a different type of leadership in Baltimore. The whole city government is corrupt, from city leaders to the police.
— In The KNOW (@YoureInTheKNOW) May 7, 2019
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.
Readers respond: If Mary Bubala had been a man, she would have probably been allowed to make an on-air apology and keep her job. https://t.co/uDIk1JvF2b
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) May 7, 2019
Mary, you are well respected for the work you have done for 20+ years. This is a typical response in pure Baltimore fashion. Ignore the question, fire the person who asked it, then we don’t have to talk about facts, we’ll talk about the aftermath. Shame on #WJZ
— Holly (@Love_my_Ravens) May 7, 2019
When tough factual questions are not allowed to be asked, freedom of the press is dead.
— Rick Troutman (@rick_troutman) May 8, 2019
@MaryWJZ has been a friend of mine for more than 20 years. She is one of the kindest people I know. Even IF she may have misspoken, to imply that she has a racist bone in her body is as ignorant as racism itself.
— mike isenberg (@BESTTVMike) May 3, 2019
@wjz Can someone please explain to me why Mary Bubala was fired? As a black woman who watched her ask the question about Baltimore’s leadership, I found nothing to be offensive and only heard facts. This is wrong and it needs to be fixed.
— Venusbabe887 (@HeleneTae) May 7, 2019
I might take some heat for this but I don’t think Mary Bubala meant what she said in the context that everyone is putting it in. And she may have a point about needing a new demographic to lead Baltimore City. Wasn’t that our whole campaign for Obama?
— Javon Edmonds (@ChefVon45) May 7, 2019
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