By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
A Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post has apologized to D.C. Council member Marion Barry for sending an intemperate e-mail to his spokesman.
"It's the stupidest thing I've done in 30 years in journalism," music critic Tim Page said yesterday. "I hope people won't judge me on this one explosion."
Page wrote Barry's aide, Andre Johnson, last week after receiving an unsolicited press release about the former mayor's views on Greater Southeast Community Hospital:
"Must we hear about it every time this crack addict attempts to rehabilitate himself with some new -- and typically half-witted -- political grandstanding? I'd be grateful if you would take me off your mailing list. I cannot think of anything the useless Marion Barry could do that would interest me in the slightest, up to and including overdose."
Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. called Page's e-mail "a terrible mistake" and said he has taken "appropriate internal action," but neither he nor Page would disclose it. Page plans to take a previously scheduled four-month leave starting Jan. 1.
Downie said Page "has nothing to do with our local political coverage, as a music critic. On the other hand, it was sent on Washington Post e-mail, and he represents The Washington Post in everything he does."
Barry said in an interview that he was "outraged" and "incredulous" at the "despicable" e-mail, "particularly coming from a reporter at a reputable newspaper like The Washington Post, not a rag." He said the note amounted to "character assassination" at a time when "around the nation, it's almost open season on black people."
Downie said Barry called him and that "we had a good conversation. . . . He accepted my apology." But Barry said yesterday that Page "ought to be fired, and The Washington Post ought to run an editorial apology. That would be a signal to the whole world that The Washington Post won't tolerate this kind of lowlife activity."
Barry served a six-month prison sentence after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine during an FBI sting in 1990. Page's e-mail was first reported Sunday by WUSA-TV's Bruce Johnson.
Page won the Pulitzer for his music criticism in 1997, two years after joining The Post.
In a letter of apology to Johnson, Page said he was sorry for his "rude" response, adding: "I am deeply ashamed for what I did and I know how hurtful my words could be."
Page said he had been cursed by a Barry staffer during an earlier phone request to be taken off the e-mail list. Johnson said he had no previous contact with Page and has no record of such a request.