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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

VillarSalinas: We Told You So

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is in the midst of divorce proceedings with his wife, acknowledged he is in a relationship with a Spanish-language television reporter, according to a statement published Tuesday.

Villaraigosa issued a statement, published Tuesday by the Los Angeles Daily News, acknowledging his involvement with Telemundo newswoman Mirthala Salinas, after the paper told the mayor it was set to publish a story about their relationship.

"It is true that I have a relationship with Ms. Mirthala Salinas. As I've said I take full responsibility for my actions, and I once again ask that people respect my family's privacy. For my part, I intend to stay focused on my job, and to work as hard as I can every day to be the best mayor I can be," Villaraigosa said.

1 comment:

gary fouse said...

Antonio Villaraigosa-LA's Mayoral Soap Opera

Last week, I wrote about the ongoing circus that is LA politics (Crime and Punishment on the Left Coast). One of the more interesting and entertaining aspects of that story is the ongoing saga of LA Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa AKA Tony Villar. During the past month, Villaraigosa held a press conference to announce the separation from his wife. (The next day, Ms Raigosa filed for divorce.) During that conference, a female reporter from one of LA's top radio stations asked in a round-about way if the mayor was involved in any relationships, to which the mayor replied that his personal life was private, pleading for the press to "respect the privacy of him and his family during this difficult time." By the way the reporter phrased the question, it could be inferred that she had the name of a particular person in mind, especially since rumors were flying that Villaraigosa was in fact having an affair with a Spanish-radio news personality.

Well, yesterday (July 3), the mayor finally came clean and admitted that he was involved in a relationship with Mirthala Salinas, a beautiful news reporter and substitute anchor with Telemundo, a Spanish language TV station in LA. The press conference only came about when it was learned that the LA Daily News, a small local newspaper, was about to break the story. In his conference, the mayor reiterated in both English and Spanish that his personal life should be considered private, and that it had no impact on his duties as mayor. "Courageously", the mayor took "full personal responsibility for his actions", quite admirable since there was no way the coverup could continue.

Coincidentally enough, Salinas had herself made the announcement to Telemundo's audience that the Villaraigosas were separating in the wake of the mayor's initial press conference. (Our favorite TV soap operas couldn't think up better plots than this one.)

Salinas herself was not immediately available for comment on July 3, but her boss, Manuel Abud, confirmed that Salinas had informed her superiors at Telemundo months previous of the relationship, whereupon she was assigned to other duties not related to political coverage. No harm, no foul according to Telemundo.

At this point, the local radio talk shows are full of callers demanding that Mr Villaraigosa resign. However, local politicians are remaining silent, probably thinking about their own hidden skeletons. The Spanish media, while having to report the story, have not as yet come out editorially condemning the mayor or demanding resignation. It remains to be seen how that aspect of the saga will play out.

Aside from the question of the mayor's conduct, there is a side issue, which is no less important. It appears that the LA news media was pretty much aware of the mayor's relationship with Salinas. Rumors had been swirling for some time. Yet, where was LA's prestigious newspaper, the LA Times, a paper known not only for its liberal leanings, but also for a long tradition of investigative reporting? How was it that their smaller competitor, the Daily News, was able to grab the scoop over the Times? What about the local radio news stations? Why were they not pursuing the story? (KFI's shock jocks, John and Ken excepted) What about the Spanish news media? Telemundo already knew that one of their reporters (who had been covering the mayor until she revealed the relationship to her bosses) was romantically involved with the married mayor. Why were all these mainstream news outlets silent until the Daily News was about to break the story?

The only conclusion one could reasonably draw is that the mainstream media, as has been long charged by conservative talk radio, reports or gives top play to what they want to publish and will ignore or downplay stories that do not fit into their agenda, especially when one of their own is involved in the scandal. In the case of Villaraigosa, we have a liberal minority mayor, touted as a comer in state and national politics, a person in whom liberals and certainly Spanish media have invested much in his success. The other player, Salinas, was herself a prominent member of the local Spanish news media. This is a damning indictment on our mainstream news outlets.

So the poor residents of LA debate whether Villaraigosa's personal life should count against his (lackluster) performance as mayor, and they wait for the next shoe to drop. Will Villaraigosa resign? Don't bet on it.

gary fouse
lake forest, ca
fousesquawk