Vincent Gray apologizes for 2010 campaign in TV interview

In a Wednesday television interview — his first in-depth Q&A since announcing his re-election plans — Mayor Vincent C. Gray offered his most explicit apology for his troubled 2010 campaign.

“I didn’t do anything,” Gray told WUSA-TV reporter Bruce Johnson. “At the same time, I want to apologize to people about the campaign. I can’t apologize for what other people did. But it was the Vincent Gray campaign, I understand that.”

The apology was aired at the top of WUSA’s (Channel 9) 5 p.m. newscast Wednesday, and further excerpts from the lengthy interview were set to air on broadcasts later in the day. Gray granted the interview just days before he formally kicks off his re-election campaign with a rally Saturday at a community center in Southeast Washington.

His remarks Wednesday repeated several earlier comments he’s made about the campaign missteps, including claims that he was too busy doing his job as D.C. Council chairman to keep a close eye on campaign doings. An ongoing federal investigation has resulted in guilty pleas to federal charges from several campaign associates, including a close confidant who had played key roles in Gray’s earlier campaigns.

But Wednesday was the first time Gray tendered a public apology for the wrongdoing: “The things that happened in my campaign, you know, were painful, they were embarrassing to me,” he said. “They were things that I wish hadn’t happened and I’m sorry that those things happened.”

After his sudden decision to seek re-election in December, Gray was initially defiant in addressing questions about what had happened in 2010.

“I’ve said what I’ve said, I’ve said it repeatedly, and, you know what? There’s no end to that,” he said on Dec. 3. “I probably could have avoided all of this by not even getting into this race at this stage. . . . 2010 is now getting ready to be four years ago, okay? And I want to talk about what happens going forward in 2014.”

The portions of the Channel 9 interview aired thus far, despite the softer touch, do not include further explanations of his knowledge of the illegal schemes laid out by prosecutors. Nor did they lay out to what extent Gray has cooperated with federal investigators.

Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies said Wednesday that Gray “is emphasizing … his apology is deep and heartfelt, and he needs to turn the page.”

Thies said he is confident the public is not overly concerned about the unresolved questions over Gray’s knowledge of or participation in any wrongdoing: “Certainly there are some journalists who care about the past, and if the mayor has to emphasize that he’s deeply sorry about 2010, then it’s necessary that he do that.”

He added, “The mayor is by no means taking responsibility for other people’s misdeeds. What the mayor is doing is he is apologizing for the pain the 2010 campaign caused, the embarrassment it provided to the District. He wants people to understand he’s sorry … even [for] the aspects over which he has no control.”

Additional portions of the interview are set to air at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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