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Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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This sordid affair has few details, many questions

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By DAN FAGAN

Here’s what we know: Maria Athens, who describes herself on her Facebook page as news anchor and executive producer for Fox, ABC, CW, and Newsnet Alaska, is in jail. She was arrested and booked at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center on Friday.  

Athens was charged with Criminal Mischief, Assault 4, and disorderly conduct.  MRAK reported: “Athens had been preparing to broadcast an explosive story about Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, but the station manager, who was said to be her fiancé, was preventing her from going forward with the story.”

On Friday, Athens posted a video at 12:08 pm on her fan Facebook page. Athens told viewers: “Breaking news, according to reliable sources, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has his male genitalia posted on an underaged girl’s website.” 

I don’t know Athens and have never met her as far as I am aware. I have viewed some of her videos and they clearly carry a Theresa Obermeyer vibe.

Older Alaskans will remember Obermeyer as an eccentric, excitable, and passionate conspiracy theorist who would often make a scene at school board meetings. 

If you’ve watched the Athens video, and I’m assuming most readers have, you’ll notice her excitement over the news she is teasing. If the story is true, and that is an enormously huge if, showing that much excitement and enthusiasm over a story of a young girl being exposed to the genitalia of an adult male tells us a lot about Athens.

And then there was her tacky and tasteless boasting at the end of the video: “You heard it here first.”

Journalist worth their salt fully understand their power to destroy politicians when they break incriminating stories about them that are sexual in nature. Athens’ gleefulness in her video is unsettling and disturbing.  

After the video posted, my email machine and phone blew up with people asking me what I knew. I’ve since talked to several people and have heard some fairly crazy things. Not a single person I talked with would go on record so I can’t report any of it. To be honest, I don’t know what to believe at this point. 

I do know what Athens did was wrong in enthusiastically and excitably teasing a story, without offering evidence to back it up and if true, would destroy a man’s reputation.

If Athens truly had the goods on Berkowitz, she should have calmly announced she’s working on a major story involving Anchorage’s mayor and ask the viewers to watch the evening newscast. But her hastily recorded tease with no evidence to back it up was a breach of journalism ethics.  

Several Facebook commenters challenged Athens demanding proof. Initially, Athens responded to those requests with profanity dropping the f-word and insulting them. 

She later posted a picture of a man who was nude from behind posting: Mayor Ethan Berkowitz #TakeThatHaters.  

The video, which as of Sunday afternoon has been shared 974 times with more than 1,000 comments, is still up on Athens’ Facebook page. 

The mayor’s office issued a press release stating the general manager of the station Athens worked for, Scott Centers, “has emphatically disavowed his employee’s comments.” 

Yet as of Sunday afternoon, Centers, nor anyone with Coastal Television, has posted a retraction or clarification on their website. On Friday, at 9 pm, the station ran a rerun of a former newscast in place of the newscast where Athens promised to break her story about Berkowitz. 

At this point the story is gone so viral, the mayor should call a news conference no later than Monday and answer directly questions from reporters over the video. He should tell us directly if the nude picture Athens posted was indeed of him and if so, how did she get it.

There may be no legitimacy to it and we all certainly should hope that’s the case. But the mayor’s constituents need to hear directly from him on this matter. 

The Anchorage Daily News, as of this writing, Sunday afternoon, has yet to report on the very story everyone’s wondering about. Do you think there would be a media blackout from the paper if the story involved, say, a conservative Attorney General? Not bloody likely. 

Channel Two News finally weighed in on the story on Saturday when Maria Downy posted to her Facebook page: “We did not report on the story since we don’t report on unsubstantiated rumors (which there were against both involved) but now it has led to criminal charges of assault against the reporter.” 

But Athens was arrested on Friday afternoon and KTUU didn’t have the story on any of its Friday evening newscasts. What changed? As much as Downey and crew wanted to keep a lid on the story, they obviously changed course after they saw how viral it went on Facebook. 

It’s painfully obvious KTUU and the ADN are pro-Berkowitz in their coverage. Refusing to cover the story confirms their ongoing built-in bias. 

Athens is expected to be released from jail on Monday and at some point, she’ll have to back up her claims against the mayor.

If she doesn’t, we’ll all know this was nothing more than a publicity stunt by a journalist who should have never been hired in the first place. 

Dan Fagan hosts the number one rated morning drive radio show weekdays on Newsradio 650 KENI. He splits his time between Anchorage and New Orleans.  

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Yikes! This is drama that might make a great reality show….,

  • You sound like Berkowitz’s friends Forrest Dunbar and Eric Croft, who are running for mayor. You have completely ignored Maria’s imprisonment that doesn’t even have a charging document!

    • Athens was charged with Criminal Mischief, Assault 4, and disorderly conduct.

      • None of which are normally offenses that would require a hold over in jail of 48-72 hours.

  • How is Athens’ behavior any different than the fascist reporters who constantly and gleefully bash the president, claiming quotes are from “reliable sources”? The difference is that they aren’t in jail.

    • Theirs is sanctioned by their peers within the echo chamber known as reality news!

    • Have you heard the recording of the unhinged reporter threatening to kill the mayor and his wife?
      Pretty sure if a reporter threatens to kill Trump, they will be jailed as well.

  • Most of my comments about Dan’s stories are not posted, and I assume this is because his feelings are hurt. For example, only an idiot would think that a government official should spend one minute responding to a bizarre statement made by a woman who had a mental breakdown. If I show a picture of a fat man making love to a goat and say it’s either Eddie Burke or Dan, how should they respond? What if I have two photos?

    • Fat man? You sound like a jealous child. Dan Fagan writes the truth. Like it or not.

  • Well at least she resides in Alaska…………….unlike the author “Louisiana Dan”.

  • Jail time for what the Mayor calls a false accusation? Berkowitz is showing his Fascist dictator side to the public again.

  • If she had pictures of an improper nature and they were sent to a minor, and she had proof of that, she should have given them to the police and let them do their jobs. If nothing got done or there was a coverup with the police, she could have run a story on it somehow. This is all just sounding like a giant coverup at this point. You know it used to be common place to accuse women of being crazy or having a breakdown to get them to be quiet. A lot remains to be seen and heard. We need proof of it all.

    • There is such a thing as a useful stereotype and we appear to be seeing an example of that.

  • Rexann, I agree 100%.

  • My question is:
    What does an extremely attractive news anchor like Maria see in a size 4 shoesize mayor like Berkowitz?

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