“It’s the stupidest thing I’ve done in 30 years in journalism,” music critic Tim Page (above) said yesterday. “I hope people won’t judge me on this one explosion.”
Page wrote Barry’s aide, Andre Johnson, last week after receiving an unsolicited press release about the former mayor’s views on Greater Southeast Community Hospital:
“Must we hear about it every time this crack addict attempts to rehabilitate himself with some new — and typically half-witted — political grandstanding? I’d be grateful if you would take me off your mailing list. I cannot think of anything the useless Marion Barry could do that would interest me in the slightest, up to and including overdose.”
Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. called Page’s e-mail “a terrible mistake” and said he has taken “appropriate internal action,” but neither he nor Page would disclose it. Page plans to take a previously scheduled four-month leave starting Jan. 1.
Downie said Page “has nothing to do with our local political coverage, as a music critic. On the other hand, it was sent on Washington Post e-mail, and he represents The Washington Post in everything he does.”
Barry said in an interview that he was “outraged” and “incredulous” at the “despicable” e-mail, “particularly coming from a reporter at a reputable newspaper like The Washington Post, not a rag.” He said the note amounted to “character assassination” at a time when “around the nation, it’s almost open season on black people.”
With all due respect to the former Mayor, if there was a racial component to Page’s message, the Post made no such thing clear to this reader. If Page’s great error was calling an elected official a “crack addict”, perhaps an amended letter would’ve sufficed rather than a formal apology? To wit, Barry’s mere conviction on a cocaine possession charge in 1990 (and prior appearance smoking crack on an FBI surveillance tape) is no way proper justification for calling this respected public servant a crack addict.
However, had Page’s offending passage read “must we hear about it every time this recreational user of crack attempts to rehabilitate himself with some new — and typically half-witted — political grandstanding?”, I’m sure there’d have been far less outcry.