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Baltimore Station Apologizes, Fires Anchorwoman Over Controversial Question About Race, Gender of City’s Recent Mayors

A local TV news anchor in Baltimore has lost her job after coming under fire for a “racist and sexist” question she asked regarding the race, gender and leadership of the city’s recent mayors, all of whom are Black women.

Baltimore’s WJZ-TV confirmed Monday that Mary Bubala was no longer employed by the station.

Mary Bubala
Mary Bubala (far left) faced backlash for a question to Loyola University professor Kaye Wise Whitehead (far right) insinuating that Baltimore needs a shift from Black, female leadership. (WJZ-TV/ video screenshot)

“Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee,” a station manager told The Baltimore Sun. “The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks.”

Bubala faced backlash for a question she posed during a recent interview with Loyola University professor Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead about the race and gender of Baltimore’s last three mayors, including Catherine Pugh, who resigned earlier this month.

“We’ve had three female, African-American mayors in a row,” the anchor began, setting up her question on Thursday’s broadcast. “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?”

Whitehead replied no, disagreeing with the notion that Baltimore needs a shift from African-American, female leadership.

Bubala’s question hit a nerve with many, including Nicki Mayo, a former president of the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists (BABJ) who’s worked in TV news. Mayo posted a clip from the broadcast to her Twitter account, where it spurred a torrent of angry reactions from viewers.

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

Plenty of users shared her outrage and disgust.

“Omg I want to throw up after seeing this!!! This is appalling!!!” one critic wrote.

“I had to replay this three times to make sure I heard her correctly. This is unacceptable,” another chimed in. “We do not generalize white men this way. Who is this anchor?!”

Bubala’s question even drew a response from Whitehead, who argued the media should be held accountable for asking such “racially-biased” questions.

“The current conversations around leadership in Baltimore are challenging, emotional, and at times include layers of racism and sexism,” she told The Baltimore Sun in a statement. “There’s an assumption that since three black women have served as mayor — and the city hasn’t entirely changed for the better — then perhaps black women are not fit to lead this city.”

“No one can ask racially biased questions in the public sphere — including in the media — without being held accountable,” Whitehead continued.

Bubala issued two separate apologies on Thursday and Friday amid fallout over the incident. On Twitter, the former news anchor wrote that she was “so deeply sorry” and that her question didn’t come out as intended.

“I combined two questions in my head during a live interview and said something I didn’t mean to,” she explained, later adding: ‘I’m devastated that the words I used portrayed me as someone I know I am not.”

Bubala confirmed her departure from WJZ-TV in an email to The Baltimore Sun, which read, in part: ““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,” she concluded.

The BABJ wasn’t less than impressed with Bubala’s apology, however, and issued a statement condemning her question as “racist and “sexist.” Mayo argued, however, that canning Bubala didn’t solve “the greater problem here.”

While online critics said Bubala’s question was yet another example of microaggressions often faced by women and people of color, there were plenty of supporters who criticized the station’s decision to let her go.

“Can someone please explain to me why Mary Bubala was fired?” one woman wrote. “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.”

A former co-worker of Bubala described her as “compassionate” and said “I believe her when she says the question just came out wrong. I stand with my friend.”

Mayo still wasn’t won over, however.

“She messed up. I get it,” Mayo told the paper. “But you know that line, ‘The mouth speaks the truth of the heart?’ She told you how she feels.”

Watch more in the video below.

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