City Paper is not for tourists
Enjoy your weekend, Washington, but be warned: the federal investigation into Vince Gray is making the political atmosphere in this town so heated, anyone could be accused of calling for the mayor’s resignation at any moment. You’re walking your dog…boom, you’ve denounced the mayor. You’re cooking dinner…boom, you’ve denounced the mayor. You’re taking a nap…boom!
Or so it must seem to Councilmember Tommy Wells, who found WUSA9 reporting Wednesday night that he called for Gray to resign, and then retracted his call, when he had actually done nothing at all. WUSA9’s reporting spread via Twitter to other outlets—-even, briefly, to Washington City Paper. The story eventually landed in Mark Plotkin‘s appearance on Fox 5 later that night, where Plotkin said Wells had backed off of his call for Gray to resign.
While WUSA9 news director Fred D’Ambrosi didn’t respond to a request for comment, I’ve got the Wells side of the story from Charles Allen, Wells’s chief of staff.
After the late-breaking resignation calls by David Catania, Mary Cheh, and Muriel Bowser for Gray’s resignation, Wells—-who has a mayoral future of his own to consider—-told Allen that he had no plans to join them. Just minutes after leaving his office, though, around 6:30, Allen saw WUSA9 tweeting that Wells had called for Gray to resign. Soon, his phone began to blow up with other reporters calling to confirm the news.
Allen called WUSA9 to find out why they had reported something that hadn’t happened, and was told that several of the station’s reporters had “seen it.” Absent comment from the station, what they had seen remains a mystery.
About an hour and a half after the incorrect tweet, the station corrected itself. Allen dissed the station for not calling to confirm that Wells wanted the mayor to quit, an error he says made it look like Wells was flip-flopping on Gray after the correction.
“It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle,” he says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery