UPDATE: Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has resigned. He issued a statement citing “unacceptable personal conduct” as the reason. The nature of that conduct remains undefined.
While Duane Ose, the 78-year-old star of a former reality-TV show could be risking his life by following his hormones into the foothills of the Alaska Range, the mayor of the state’s largest city might have forfeited the political future to his.
And to think there are those who accuse women of being “too hormonal.”
Let me state, before going any further, that a.) I am not a perfect man; and b.) like most of the rest of the journalists in Anchorage, I ignored the developing scandal surrounding Mayor Ethan Berkowitz when it first appeared on the Facebook page of Your Alaska Alaska anchor Maria Athens and then broke in non-social media on the website Must Read Alaska (MRAK).
First off, to be wholly honest, I know and like Berkowitz. I liked him more when he existed in a Wally Hickelesque big-dream-mode before his election as mayor, but a politician going pragmatic is not an automatic reason to dislike him or her.
More than that, though, I always appreciated Berkowitz as a smart guy, and smart guys don’t send “dick picks”, or in this case “ass picks” (though there are warnings of more pics to come), over the internet to women.
Not to women with whom they are in long-term relationships. Not to women with whom they want to start new relationships. Not to random women.
This is the 21st Century.
Anything you put into the tubes – ANYTHING – can be found there. If you’re someone involved in politics – even if your someone not involved in politics – it is fundamentally stupid to put nudies – back, front or sideways, upside or downside – in the tubes unless you’re ready to have them come back at you.
Black, white and gray
Granted, if you’re a film celebrity, there might be upsides and downsides to weigh. Some might argue a sex tape revived the career of actor Rob Lowe, and Lowe himself once told USA Today this:
“People talk about it, I go, ‘I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Honestly, I do, ’cause it got me sober. Sober got me married. I’ve been married 29 years, and I have two great sons. I don’t think any of that happens without going through that scandal. I really don’t.'”
But Lowe is an actor, not a politician. Sex pics, be they video or stills, have generally spelled the end for U.S. politicians. President Donald Trump has survived various sexual allegations, as did former President Bill Clinton, but nobody ever produced any photos or video of either of them nude or in action.
Former members of Congress, starting with Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., can attest to the dangers of sexually explicit photos and videotapes. Exposing your private parts to a camera is political suicide.
Thus, when Suzanne Downing “broke” the Berkowitz story on MRAK, it was easy to ignore. Berkowitz couldn’t possibly be so stupid.
I even went so far as to agree with a friend, a former journalist, that MRAK might have crossed the line in moving the story from Athens’ post in social media onto the bridge between social media and traditional media.
Or what former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin liked to lambast as the “lamestream media.” But let’s be honest here. Adhering to certain rules of evidence, as long as you adhere to them, is not a bad thing. It is a good thing.
Still, the former colleague and I eventually ended up in an argument over whether the right-wing media or the left-wing media was worse. It deteriorated to the point where I simply hung up on him.
Arguing the difference between bad and baddest is a waste of time. MRAK is a right-leaning publication that admits it. The Anchorage Daily News – the state’s largest news organization – is a left-leaning organization that denies it.
A day after MRAK ran the Athens story with the ADN still reporting nothing, another former ADNer pinged me to ask “if the accusation had been about (Gov. Mike) Dunleavy instead of Berkowitz do you think ADN would have quashed it?”
I would have liked to think the answer, yes. But it’s been a long time since there’s been an argument in the ADN newsroom about anything, let alone how to cover right-left politics.
Diversity died there a long time ago. ADN editor David Hulen likes it that way. He abhors rigorous debate. Anyone inclined to question the newspaper’s editorial policies is soon shifted aside or simply gone.
Friends and enemies
There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It might even be good. When Berkowitz decided it was time to confess his sins (the rumor being that Athens has more than just butt photos), he had an outlet to which to turn.
And thus more of the story emerged.
“Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz apologized Monday for what he termed a ‘consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship’ with Anchorage news anchor Maureen ‘Maria’ Athens,” the newspaper reported today.
Unfortunately, this came three days after the mayor issued a statement saying “the slanderous statements from Your Alaska Link reporter Maria Athens are categorically false and appear to be the product of someone who is hostile and unwell.”
Athens’ report that Berkowitz “exposed his genitalia on an underage girl’s website” might well be untrue. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reported to have cleared Berkowitz of any criminal activity.
The facts of the case, however, remain unclear even as this is written. Some mght consider an “underage girl” someone under the age of 18. Others might move the bar down to 21.
According to the Alaska Bar Association, “two people who are both 16 or older can (legally) agree to have sex with each other,” a standard that would move the bar even lower.
The same standard would appear to apply to sharing sexual images on the internet. If, of course, both parties were willing participants in that exchange.
No one, at this point, knows what Athens meant by “under-age girl.” Twenty, 19, 18, 17, 16?
If Berkowitz was engaged, as he now says, in “an inappropriate messaging relationship” with Athens, there is no reason he couldn’t be engaged in such a relationship with another woman even younger.
Berkowitz is 58. Athens is 41.
The discovery of a second relationship with someone even younger might explain why Athens’ unleashed the accusations that ended up costing her her job, getting her arrested for fighting with her boss and Anchorage Police, and – if untrue – would be slanderous and subject to litigation.
They still might although it is hard bordering on impossible for public and political figures to bring slander and perjury lawsuits against “journalists.”
Political and public figures must show the reporter knew the story was wrong and acted with “malice,” as the First Amendment Encyclopedia says.
If, as Berkowitz now suggests, the actions of Athens are the result of some sort of relationship gone bad, there is a good argument to be made that her public accusations were fueled by malicious intent. Still, if there is any substance to them at all, the mayor faces a tough case to prove slander.
And at this point, it would appear the story remains incomplete.
A new Alaska
All of which raises the biggest question of all: Does any of this matter?
The FBI and the Anchorage Police Department say they have investigated, and no crimes were committed. Whatever happened here was between Berkowitz and Athens, or maybe Berkowitz and Athens and other parties if Athens is to be believed.
The old Alaska was a pretty libertarian place with a lot of tolerance for what people – including politicians – did in their private lives. As a reporter in the state capital in the late 1970s and early 1980s – when the Permanent Fund was being developed and the future of the state was being shaped – I witnessed my share of misbehavior (and illegal behavior) on the part of political leaders.
A joint passed around was not considered a bad thing though marijuana was then still illegal. A few lines of cocaine among casual friends was not something to get concerned about, though that was as illegal then as it is now.
Sex? Well, sex was sex and thankfully people weren’t carrying around smartphones with which they could record anything or everything.
Times have changed since then, however. Views are different now. I admit to favoring the old school views.
Who you chose to have sex with and what sort of chemicals you decide to ingest is really not my business. On some level, any “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship,” Berkowitz had with anyone – journalist or bartender, male or female, politically connected or politically unconnected – is between him and his family and his children, the real victims in all of this.
If nothing else, express a little sympathy for them. They are now caught in a story that would mean nothing, totally nothing, but for one thing:
The judgment of anyone who aspires to lead, as Berkowitz has, only to engage in this sort of politically dangerous behavior immediately raises questions. And the questions only increase when the politician’s first reaction to the exposure of his behavior is to resort to what some might call “victim blaming.”
It’s hard to see Athens as a victim, but Berkowitz’s Friday claim that Athens’s statements “appear to be the product of someone who is hostile and unwell” were clearly misleading, and that claim she is “unwell” is especially problematic.
Athens looked unwell in the video she posted that launched the accusations. But well or unwell, there was clearly more to this story, and still is, than a product of her mental health or imagination.
Part of her story at least appears to be true. She had some sort of sexual relationship with Berkowitz – online or off – and she has the photos to prove it.
And the fact she was arrested by the Anchorage Police Department – an organization overseen by Berkowitz – shortly after she made this all public only makes the situation look worse for the mayor.
There is absolutely no reason to believe Berkowitz had anything to do with her arrest, but lordy the optics are bad. So, too, his initial claim suggesting Athens made everything up only to be followed by the admission of a relationship between the mayor and the reporter.
But maybe it’s all just confusion over “the meaning of what the word is is.”
Categories: Commentary, Politics
Nested is spot on. How far we have advanced since Satch Carlson.
“Athens looked unwell in the video she posted that launched the accusations. But well or unwell, there was clearly more to this story, and still is, than a product of her mental health or imagination.”
“Ethan, it’s Maria Athens from Fox/ABC/CW/News Net National Alaska. Uh, I just learned through my g- my, eh, ah….Emmy-award winning journalism, you’re also a pedophile and like little girls and children, and there’s a website. I’m so fucking exposing you. I’m gonna get an Emmy. So you either turn yourself in, kill yourself, or do what you need to do. I will personally kill you and Mara Kimmel my god damn self, you Jewish piece of living fucking shit. You have met your match, motherfucker. You have met your motherfucking match. I can’t believe- I am such a good person, and thought I loved you. I fucking hate- I don’t even hate you. I will pray for your Zionist fucking ass, you piece of shit loser. And, I’m putting this on the news tonight. Bye! Have a great Friday, you motherfucker!”
And it’s really a nice touch Medred, to play the “what we don’t know” card! You are as good at fanning flames as any of your despised contemporaries with the only difference being you having lost a step.
Monk , thanks for recap of what posible Pedo ethan the disgraced ex democrat mayor is accused of and why he so quickly resigned . You protest so much it makes a person wonder? Sensitive subject? Glad craig has the good taste to leave out all the profanity you presented. Do you need to update your meds ? Sorry your Hero Ethan Burky is going the way of unethical philandering probale pedo ,power obsessed fascist democrat mayors . Gone and good riddance. May Anchoragites have better judgment in future elections.
Crazy or not, she did leave me feeling a little journalistically inadequate.
For years I’ve called politicians to get a comment on this or that, leaving a polite message, and never hearing a thing. Athens calls, leaves this message, and it appears that – hot damn – she gets an almost instantaneous return.
I’m thinking maybe next time I need a comment I’ll call and leave a profanity filled message threatening to kill them if they don’t return the call. But I am a little worried that instead of immediately calling me back they might just turn the tape over to the FBI or APD and ask someone in law enforcement to go pick me up.
That would be a bummer.
They’re all sleezebags. Either sex, money, or both.
According to Section 7.02(c) of the Anchorage Municipal Charter: “A vacancy in the office of mayor shall be filled at a regular or special election held not less than 90 days from the time the vacancy occurs. If less than 90 days remain in the term when the vacancy occurs, the vacancy shall not be filled. When a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor, the chairman of the assembly shall serve as acting mayor until a successor is elected and takes office. The acting mayor has the veto power, but may not vote on assembly action. The assembly by ordinance shall provide for further succession to the office of acting mayor.”
One of the reasons Ethan went down hard is the white-hot anger at him, his Assembly, and their arbitrary and capricious Wuhan Flu shutdown, mask mandates, war on small businesses here in ANC, and the wanton theft of CARES Act funds. When Ethan fell, nobody but 4-5 of his closest friends and employees (Andrew this means you), were there to catch him. There was a time he would have gotten the benefit of the doubt. After the war on the rest of us since March, that disappeared entirely, as it should.
Message for the ANC Assembly: You guys are next. Cheers –
New meaning to the phrase “Put Your Back Into It…”
I say Suzanne Downing with Must Read Alaska did a very well written piece . I pretty much agree with her conclusions. Granted they border on the edge of opinion. That said Ethan does appear predatory and did take advantage of citizens trust and his wifes trust putting his children is greater life jeopardy than catching covid . Emotional distress is bad for young people and is prooven to put them at risk for the rest of their life . At best Ethan is far to facistic and utilizing poor judgment to be in a position of power . At worst he’s another democrat pedophile . I also agree Law enforcement made a mistake by closing the investigation so quickly and clearing Ethan of wrong doing. That clearly means they didn’t really look . That shines very poorly on Anchorage Police cheif . Thats no surprise though as city police dont have the best reputation. Pedophilia against children is an extreme charge and should have been taken with very extreme investigation and double checks to the fullest possibilities. . Witnesses often recant out of fear of reprisals from many forms . A man in power who sexts with mistresses is a deranged and devolved individual who has no place in public service and his ethics show its probable hes done far worse .
Mayor Berkoparte gets more exposure(no pun intended)
Hell hath no fury,like that of a woman scorned.
Burkies net worth is moving to the otherside of the table.
The pedo charges i suspect were trumped up,but ughm supposedly 3yrs of JUST sexting!
threatening to murder the mayor and his wife
added in with an anti-Semitic rant on tape
might be a factor in the FBI investigation
My favorite part of the recorded message was: “I thought that I loved you”.
We all know what that implies and it is not something you would say after just a few “sexy texts”?
threats of murder against family members
look a naked butt oh my
Obviously if its a real recording and not forged it shows at minimum temporary mental issues. Problem is why was it released? Especially if was Evidence in criminal probe . Taints the jury pool . Fbi is fully in partnership with current democrats . There is full proof of conspiracy between Dem party and FBI throughout recent history . Id trust nothing coming from either one . The ethics of a mayor or law enforcement releasing such a record is very suspect and stinks of misinformation snd psy ops . Stinky stinky — cover for the Mayor at All costs . Make the woman look crazy. Politicians and Fbi have done nothing to clean up their reputation. Only a fool trusts at this point.
Why did the FBI investigate consensual sexting between two adults? There is more to this story & it probably involves underage girls. Berkowitz is toast.
They have to investigate the allegations of sexting with a minor. The point is they apparently found nothing. Hopefully that’s because nothing existed to find. Athens may have more to add.
“If Berkowitz was engaged, as he now says, in “an inappropriate messaging relationship” with Athens, there is no reason he couldn’t be engaged in such a relationship with another woman even younger.”
This is what most people are thinking at this point…is there a “non-disclosure” in the works so that Ms. Athens does not come forward with any new information she might have?
The silence from ADN after they hounded the Clarkson “texting” scandal is the most telling to me.
Great article, the reporting we miss at ADN.
Wonder if the 9 Leftists on the Assembly will extend his emergency powers tonight.
The FBI was corrupt during the J. Edgar Hoover era and the Comey era just more of the same. The Anchorage Police Chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor and the entire department has prospered from democrat mayors’ pay and benefits policies. Her arrest was just too convient for the mayor……..
This whole situation stinks. Mayor berkopart needs to resign and return to sender(California).
She was arrested for assaulting either her apparent boss and fiance who wouldn’t let her go on air, or a security guard he sent to stop her (note no domestic violence charges were made). There is no need to besmirch APD in this. I was in the Marines with the Chief, Justin Doll is an honorable man who isn’t going to be pushed around by a criminal politician nor bury any sort of crime against a minor.
Just Because your campadre wouldn’t be pushed around doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be influenced. Its a big deal to have your career and finances under the thumb of an unethical politician which Ethan prooves hes is on multiple fronts . You say you served with the cheif. Was it under fire and death or just in the field . ?Obviously there is a difference. You never know an individual until youve seen them in action with their life on the line for years . One instance doesn’t cut it . Fearless from direct violence is different than making the right choices while under someone’s long term thumb . Your cheif may be a hero but he should have delegated responsibility of all aspects to top end investigative performers and legal departments . It was out of line to arrrest the accusor and do a quick clearance of a pedophiliia suspect. That reaks 😷. Even if the cheif was Completely justified . Facist Ethan pulls the levers .
No one has said anything was buried, but the “investigation” into child porn was obviously not lengthy nor thorough…………