The invitation requests the pleasure of your company at a "Holiday Pre-Inaugural Gala" for D.C. Mayor-elect Sharon Pratt Dixon, to be held "at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore D. Walters."
Theodore D. Walters is none other than ace reporter Del Walters, who covers the District Building for WJLA-TV. And Walters is the first to concede that the prospect of having 500 guests at his Herndon home for a Dixon fund-raiser -- an event to be hosted by his wife, Robin -- was a "visibly awkward" situation for him.
Yesterday, less than two hours after a reporter's inquiry brought the matter to his attention, WJLA News Director Gary Wordlaw ordered Walters to cancel the fund-raiser. "I have a journalistic problem with that," Wordlaw said. He said that if a Washington Post reporter's wife "was hosting a fund-raiser for the mayor, I'd probably bring my cameras there and cover that."
Walters conceded the point late yesterday.
"I'm caught between being a husband and a journalist," he said. "The journalist knows it's got to be canceled. The husband is going to have to live with the wife. ... It's not fair to Robin Walters, but that's the way it's got to be."
Robin Walters, a computer systems engineer and former part-time model, said before Channel 7 ordered the cancellation that she insisted on hosting the fund-raiser because she admires Dixon. Since the couple moved here from Kansas City, Mo., five years ago, she said, she has wanted to get involved in community affairs and has been "trying to get out from under Del's shadow."
"He has to understand that this is something I want to do and I live in that house as well. ... If you've ever tried being Del's wife and not having your own identity, this is probably one of my ways of rebelling against that," Robin Walters said.
The invitations, which requested "after-five attire" for cocktails and buffet, lists Robin E. Walters and four of her friends as hosts of the event. An enclosed card asked for contributions of $100, $250, $500 or "other," payable to the Dixon inaugural committee. Robin Walters had hoped the event would raise about $10,000 to defray costs of the inauguration.
Officials in Dixon's inaugural and transition offices did not return phone calls yesterday.
Reporter Walters said he had cleared the fund-raiser with an attorney at Channel 7 but did not tell his superiors because the news director's job was vacant when the plans were made.
Walters says he "got into a big argument" with his wife over the issue, particularly when she proposed holding a campaign fund-raiser for Dixon after her Democratic mayoral primary victory.
"Anybody who would think it would affect my coverage of Sharon Pratt Dixon, I don't think so," Walters said. " ... It's no secret the mayor-elect and I are friends. We became friends during the primary." At the same time, he said that "there's been friction between the two of us" because of his recent reporting and that "the friendship will probably be sacrificed to the job."
Walters said his wife listed him by the less familiar moniker of Theodore D. Walters because "she didn't think anybody would know who Theodore was."