Mary Bubala is out at CBS affiliate WJZ-TV after asking a question last week that linked the race and gender of the last three mayors and wondered if the city needs a new direction in leadership.
“Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee,” Audra L. Swain, vice president and general manager of the network, confirmed in an email to Baltimore Fishbowl. “The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks.”
Following Catherine Pugh’s resignation last week, Bubala asked radio host and Loyola University professor Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead: “We’ve had three female African-American mayors in a row—they were all passionate public servants, two resigned, though. Is it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”
The other mayor to resign would be Sheila Dixon.
Criticism on social media was swift, with a number of journalists weighing in to say the question was racist.
Bubala released a statement apologizing, saying the question did not come out as she intended.
“I am so deeply sorry and sincerely regret the words I chose. I appreciate those who have contacted me to share how this has impacted them. I am devastated that the words I used portray me as someone that I know I am not. I hope you allow me the opportunity to regain your trust.”
In an apology reply to a couple Twitter users, Bubala said she combined two questions in her head.
“The way my question came out was not what I intended to ask because race and gender are irrelevant to one’s leadership abilities,” she said.
She did not respond to an email from Baltimore Fishbowl asking what those questions were.
On Monday, the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists released a statement calling for an on-air apology from Bubala and the network, which did not happen the day after the segment aired.
“The question implies race and gender are qualifiers in one’s ability to lead while also demonizing African-Americans and women as poor leaders,” the statement said, in part. “We feel certain Bubala would not have asked this question of white male leadership.”
— BABJ (@BABJ_md) May 6, 2019
Whitehead also addressed the issue on her WEAA 88.9 FM radio show, “Today with Dr. Kaye,” and brought on a panel of journalists (including a friend of mine, Lisa Snowden-McCray) to discuss the question.
At the top of the show, Whitehead read a statement saying her response on WJZ–which was cut off in many of the clips of the exchange posted online–was that black Baltimoreans are capable of both defending Catherine Pugh from some of the racist overtones that come in criticism of her scandal, while also holding her accountable.
She went on to say white people caught up in scandal are not held to the same standards as people of color.
“Your behavior or misdeeds are not extended to or seen as an indictment of all people.”
“I hope that the people of Baltimore know that I would never do anything to hurt anyone,” she said.
She added: “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. 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. 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.”