‘LAPSE IN JUDGEMENT’ Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz ‘sorry’ for ‘inappropriate relationship’ with reporter who shared ‘naked selfie of him’
In a statement released Monday, the married politician apologized for the “hurt” he had caused his family over his links to local TV news anchor Maria Athens.
On Friday afternoon, veteran Anchorage news anchor Maureen “Maria” Athens published a video on Facebook leveling unsubstantiated allegations that the city’s married mayor had posted inappropriate photos online. Hours later, Athens posted a nude photo, allegedly of the mayor, to bolster her case.
The saga soon turned even stranger. The mayor quickly denied the allegations, calling Athens “hostile and unwell,” and the news station she worked for also rejected her claims. By the end of the day, Athens was arrested for allegedly assaulting the station’s manager.
But on Monday afternoon, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) issued a public apology and admitted to engaging in an “inappropriate messaging relationship” with Athens, 41.
“I apologize to the people of Anchorage for a major lapse in judgment I made several years ago when I had a consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens,” Berkowitz, 58, said in a statement shared with The Washington Post on Monday. “I’m embarrassed and ashamed for the hurt I’ve caused my family and our community. I take responsibility for my actions.”
The backstory of the scandal, which has transfixed Anchorage, remains murky, with Berkowitz continuing to deny Athens’s claims and noting that law enforcement also investigated and found he’d done nothing wrong. Athens, meanwhile, didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Post, and it is not clear if she is being represented by an attorney.
The Democrat became mayor of Alaska’s most populous city in 2015. Before that, Berkowitz served as a state representative from 1997 to 2007, when he unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor. He is in his last term as mayor and not up for reelection this year.
Athens has worked as an anchor and reporter for Your Alaska Link, which consists of the KTBY and KYUR stations.
The video Athens posted on Facebook appears to have been shot inside the news studio with a cellphone held by another person. In the video, Athens accuses the mayor, without evidence or sourcing, of posting inappropriate photos on an “underage girls website.” She pledged to reveal more details on her news broadcast later that night. Thousands of people shared, commented and reacted to the post, which is still live on Athens’s Facebook page.