Whole truth about DiPietro deserves to be publicized

August 10, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

Nothing enhances your reputation like dying. Politicians become statesmen. The crude become colorful. And Mimi DiPietro becomes a legend.

Given to both anti-Semitic and racist comments in life, DiPietro is now hailed as a saint in death.

DiPietro, a former Baltimore city councilman, died Friday night, and I understand the impulse to speak no ill of the dead. I also understand why this paper has been filled with colorful and complimentary anecdotes about him.

But when this is done to the exclusion of all other information, readers are locked out of the whole truth and cannot draw their own conclusions.

I read Sunday that DiPietro was a "constant source of amusement to his colleagues and the public."

Really? Constant? I was not amused in August 1987 when dTC DiPietro attacked Kurt Schmoke for hanging around with "rich Jews" from "Jew Town."

Schmoke was not amused either and called the comments "anti-Semitic," which they were.

But is this important? Well, it's at least as important as all DiPietro's colorful malapropisms that this newspaper has repeated (and repeated and repeated) over the years.

But perhaps you are unaware of how DiPietro really spoke about Jews and blacks and gay people. That is no surprise.

Though journalists are supposed to report without fear or favor, some did not do so when it came to DiPietro. Why? On August 24, 1987, Evening Sun columnist Dan Rodricks provided a candid answer:

"DiPietro, D-1st, has said many outrageous things over the years, few of which were printed in newspapers because they were never written up by reporters. Those of us who have been close to DiPietro have treated him kindly by not committing many of his crude comments to print."

To his credit, Rodricks then went on to denounce DiPietro for his "anti-Semitic remarks."

But what were some of the other "crude comments" that DiPietro made? Here, deep in a news story on Sept. 13, 1991, was this clue about DiPietro: "This is a politician who knows nothing of political correctness. Women? He calls them girls. Gays? He knows them as queers. Jews? All rich fat cats. African-Americans? Well, take a guess."

Well, take a guess? Is that what newspapers are supposed to be? Guessing games? I thought newspapers were supposed to report what public officials said. And if a public official used the word "nigger", as I was told DiPietro did, I think a newspaper should report that.

In April 1985, when the Baltimore City Council split along racial lines to pass a bill banning squeegee kids, then-Councilman Kweisi Mfume said the bill "stinks with racist overtones." And no wonder he felt that way, considering DiPietro's remarks.

"They can rape your wife!" DiPietro said of the squeegee kids, almost all of whom were black. "And kill your wife! And then what are you going to do?"

To DiPietro, the squeegee kids did not want quarters. They wanted white women.

None of this -- nor even the fact that DiPietro was indicted for and acquitted of taking a $5,000 bribe -- has appeared in this paper following DiPietro's death. Instead, The Sun editorial on Tuesday began: "Dominic 'Mimi' DiPietro was a rough-hewn ward politician in the best sense of that term."

The people who knew him best, however, the constituents of his ward, turned him out of office in 1991, giving him just 11.7 percent of the vote.

I interviewed DiPietro several times over the years. And when I once asked him to explain his comments about Jews and Schmoke, comments for which DiPietro was forced to apologize, he did not sound very apologetic.

"What is so touchy I have to be criticized?" he said. "What for? Goddam people get shot and nobody says anything! Go after murderers and thieves and dopers!"

So why go after DiPietro now, after his death?

Because derogatory comments directed against Jews or blacks or gay people are not colorful, rough-hewn examples of political incorrectness. They are a poison which pollutes our society. And when a politician makes those comments, they should be reported and made part of his permanent record.

This is a newspaper. It's about history, not puffery.

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