It was more television exposure than most D.C. Council candidates can dream of -- but not Mayor Marion Barry.
Five days after he was interviewed by ABC correspondent Barbara Walters, Barry took his at-large council candidacy to the "Donahue" show yesterday for an hour-long appearance that was seen in an estimated 68,000 homes in the Washington area and 10 million households across the country.
Once again, Barry didn't miss a golden opportunity to emphasize the latest message of his campaign: the inequity of the six-month prison sentence imposed on him Friday by Thomas Penfield Jackson, the same judge who sentenced Michael K. Deaver to community service and a $100,000 fine for his felony perjury conviction.
"I believe Michael Deaver should have gotten community service," Barry told host Phil Donahue. "What we don't like here in Washington is the unfairness of it all. I'm willing to pay the price of any actions that I've done -- any deeds or misdeeds -- as long as they are fair."
As with virtually everything else he said yesterday morning, Barry's remarks prompted wild cheering from the crowd of more than 500 students and others who packed the University of the District of Columbia's auditorium, where Donahue staged his nationally syndicated television show yesterday.
The cheering came as no surprise. In return for agreeing to appear on the show, Barry was given 200 tickets to distribute, and his partisans turned out in force, many wearing the green-and-white buttons that tout his council candidacy.
"I wish I had his press agent," said Ray Browne, a Georgetown civic activist who is one of seven candidates running against Barry in the general election Tuesday.
It was the latest in a series of carefully staged campaign appearances for the mayor, who appears to be riding a wave of voter sympathy in some quarters, owing to what many D.C. residents feel to be his overly stiff prison sentence.
Strategists for some of the mayor's rivals were also gnashing their teeth about critical comments Jackson made this week about the jury in the Barry case -- comments they said could add to the sense of persecution Barry and his supporters are trying to foment. "Judge Jackson doesn't understand the politics of this town," complained one aide to a Barry rival.
"It has gotten the mayor some help with regard to sympathy," Democratic council nominee Linda W. Cropp said of the events of the past few days. "It is a matter of whether the sentence was equitable . . . . He's been campaigning much harder since the sentencing."
Barry told reporters that he doesn't believe the sentence will have much effect on the campaign, but he was clearly in good spirits after the "Donahue" show and a rally at UDC, where he was hailed by student leaders for his efforts to help the university in recent years.
"I just feel so fantastically good about what's happening today, and all the love and the respect and appreciation we're getting," Barry said.
As Barry spoke, Hilda H.M. Mason, the incumbent at-large council member and head of the committee that oversees UDC, watched silently while receiving no recognition from the assembled students. Mason was there for a scheduled candidates' forum that did not materialize.
Mason, the Statehood Party nominee, and Cropp are believed to be locked in a very close race with Barry for the two at-large council seats. Others running include independents Browne, Jim Harvey, R. Rochelle Burns and Clarene Martin, and Republican W. Cardell Shelton.
Mason passed up the opportunity to criticize Barry, but her campaign has increasingly sought to make political hay of Barry's conviction on a misdmeanor charge of drug possession and his acknowledged cocaine addiction. Her campaign signs carry the words "Just Say Yes -- Vote Mason" and her campaign manager, David Splitt, has recently been giving people this slogan: "Hilda Mason -- 74 years chemical free."
While Barry was discounting the political importance of his sentence and the judge's published remarks about the trial, he seemed to be doing everything he could to exploit them yesterday, telling reporters that he was "really surprised" by Judge Jackson's statement Tuesday that he believed four jurors were determined to acquit Barry from the start. "There were jurors who were just as determined to find me guilty regardless of what the facts were," he said.
On "Donahue", Barry received ammunition from NAACP executive director Benjamin L. Hooks, who said it "would have been a fair thing" for Barry to have received a sentence of community service.
Not everyone was favorably disposed toward the mayor, however.
"I'm a white guy from the suburbs," announced one person in the audience. "The people I hang out with don't care if you're black, white or green . . . . But you've done a disservice. Why do you believe that six months is too long to spend in prison for all the injustice you've done?"