Update On Baltimore Mayor Controversy NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Karsonya Wise Whitehead, associate professor of communications and African American studies at Loyola University and the host of a local radio talk show in Baltimore.

Update On Baltimore Mayor Controversy

Update On Baltimore Mayor Controversy

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NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Karsonya Wise Whitehead, associate professor of communications and African American studies at Loyola University and the host of a local radio talk show in Baltimore.


This week, federal authorities raided Baltimore city hall and two of the homes of Mayor Catherine Pugh. She has been on paid administrative leave for a month and the FBI and IRS reportedly sought records about a children's book she wrote and then sold to health care companies who have deep ties to the city. Many people are demanding that Mayor Pugh step aside. She is the third Baltimore mayor to face sustained calls to resign. Kaye Wise Whitehead hosts "Today With Dr. Kaye" on WEAA in Baltimore. Dr. Kaye, thanks so much for being with us.

KAYE WISE WHITEHEAD: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: Do you even know where the mayor is? Her own attorney says she's too sick to even answer questions now.

WHITEHEAD: Now, the word that we received yesterday is that the mayor is currently at home. Her lawyer, Silverman, has been meeting with her. He reported on Thursday that she was not lucid enough to make a decision, that she was perhaps dealing with some bronchitis as well. And yesterday, he said he had an opportunity to meet with her. So they're giving daily updates, at least through her lawyer. We have not heard from her, but her team is speaking for her.

SIMON: Of course, one of the details of the charges is that the mayor received a $500,000 payment for 100,000 copies of a book she wrote called "Healthy Holly," and that money reportedly came from the nonprofit, by the way, University of Maryland Medical System. She sat on the board. The books were meant for school children. There's not a lot of evidence that those books got into many classrooms. What are some of your callers saying? What do you hear?

WHITEHEAD: Well, people are very concerned and they're very confused. Thus far, it seems like it's now upwards of $500,000, perhaps around $800,000 from selling these self-published books. The biggest deal, of course, is with the University of Maryland Medical System, but there seems to be a similar deal on the table with Kaiser Permanente. The concern is that, with this type of money being given for self-published children's books, we should be able to find 80,000 or so copies of these books, and no one has been able to find a large majority of the books. Books have been found here and there. The mayor has hosted events where she's given a few books into the hands of children. It is with a Canadian publishing company, but when you look inside the "Healthy Holly" books - I do have two copies of them - you cannot get the name of the publisher. In fact, it just gives you the address to Mayor Catherine Pugh's P.O. box here in Baltimore. So it feels as if there's something going on - that there's money being exchanged for deals, but not necessarily for books.

SIMON: Are people in Baltimore outraged?

WHITEHEAD: There are a lot of people in Baltimore that are outraged. I would say there are still some people who are strong supporters of the mayor, who really would like her to stay and just go through the process. And then there's a large faction - and it's growing, because it started with the Baltimore City Council unanimously voting to submit a letter to the mayor asking her to resign. You have, now, all kinds of people in positions, from teachers to principals to just workers in the city, who are demanding that the mayor resign so that this city can, in their words, begin to heal and begin to move forward.

SIMON: Governor Hogan has also called for the mayor's resignation. There's a recent history of Baltimore mayors getting into hot water, right?

WHITEHEAD: This seems to be what the new normal is. Prior to Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh, we had Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Now she did not get in hot water like this, but there were a lot of concerns about the way she handled the Baltimore uprising.

SIMON: This occurred after Freddie Gray died in police custody.

WHITEHEAD: It occurred right after that. We call it the Baltimore uprising here, but it was that time when the city was responding to what happened to Freddie Gray. That - there was a sense that she wanted people to get involved with some of the behavior that happened, that she was not immediately available, and she chose, shortly after that, to state that she was not going to run again. Before Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, we had Mayor Sheila Dixon, and Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted on using gift cards that were given to the city to be used on behalf of residents to purchase some goods for herself. I don't know, shoes and bags and coats. So the last three mayors have all been black women, have all been Democrats, have all come into office under this idea that they were here to make change for the people.

SIMON: Kaye Wise Whitehead. She's also an associate professor at Loyola University in Maryland. Dr. Kaye, thanks for speaking with us.

WHITEHEAD: I appreciate your time.

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