Black ministers accuse The Sun of bias in coverage of Baltimore mayoral race

Editor says skin color isn't factor in reporting

July 30, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Several African-American ministers criticized yesterday The Sun's coverage of the city mayoral race, accusing the newspaper of targeting black candidates for critical coverage.

The Rev. John Wright, pastor of First Baptist Church of Guilford, led the morning news conference outside St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church at North Carrollton Avenue and Lanvale Street in West Baltimore. In an interview afterward, Wright said three of the city's prominent African-American mayoral candidates have been the subject of Sun articles focusing on personal finance debts and claims over college degrees.

Wright called for a protest at The Sun Monday and said a boycott of the paper is possible.

"The exposes are on all of the black candidates," said Wright, a Howard County resident who has endorsed Democratic City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III for mayor. "It's a pattern of investigation in which all of the negative is brought out."

John S. Carroll, editor of The Sun, responded to the concerns. "It is our duty to examine the candidates for mayor," Carroll said. "Whenever we find anything noteworthy, good or bad, we publish it without regard to the candidate's race." Wright said that with seven weeks remaining to the city's Sept. 14 primary, Caucasian candidates have remained unscathed in the press.

Over two weeks, The Sun has reported that Bell has been sued three times in 18 months on accusations that he failed to pay his debts, and that his car has been repossessed. Bell said the debts have been settled.

The paper also reported that Democratic mayoral candidate Carl F. Stokes mentioned a Loyola College degree in his literature, but he never graduated. Stokes acknowledged the error.

City Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway, a Democrat, objected to newspaper reports that she attended a Washington college full-time while working in the courthouse. The Rev. William "Chip" Aldridge Jr., recruitment director for Wesley Theological Seminary, said at first that it was "not possible" to earn the degree strictly at night, as Conaway said. Earlier this week, Aldridge retracted his statement.

Last month, The Sun reported that city police union and vice squad officials criticized Democratic white civic activist candidate A. Robert Kaufman for his call for a red light prostitution district. Also last month, The Sun reported again Kaufman's arrest on charges that he trespassed weeks earlier while distributing leaflets outside Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. In the same story, Roberto Marsili, a white Republican candidate from Little Italy, recounted how a circuit judge acquitted him in February of trying to run over a neighborhood rival with his car.

Mayoral candidates attended a breakfast meeting yesterday of the President's Roundtable, a group of black business leaders in the city. At the meeting, Bell told the group that critical coverage of him should also be considered a knock at his supporters in the group.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was asked to comment on The Sun mayoral coverage yesterday at his weekly news conference. Schmoke, a Democrat who is the city's first elected black mayor and who will step down in December after 12 years, said he has read the articles and has found "no fault" with the coverage.

Last night, the Greater Baltimore Interfaith Clergy Alliance held a candidates' night at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church, 2801 N. Charles St. The newly formed group, representing clergy across faith, racial, geographic and class lines, was the host of seven of the 17 Democratic candidates and one of the seven Republicans, David F. Tufaro.

Pub Date: 7/30/99

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