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On Sunday, November 23, 2014, the Honorable Marion S. Barry, Jr., passed away. At the time of his death, Mayor Barry (affectionately known as Mayor for life) was the Councilperson for Ward 8 in the Southeast area of Washington, DC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ward 8, this area houses the city’s poorest and most under-privileged citizens. Historically, Ward 8 received little to no attention and/or representation. At least, that was the status quo until Mayor Barry filled the seat. With his arrival, he gave hope to the hopeless.

You see, for those old enough to remember, Marion Barry was widely known for his commitment to helping the poor and those in need in Washington DC. Before this time, there was never an actual “race” whenever Ward 8’s council seat was available. The person who ran did so unopposed. This was mainly due to a complete lack of concern for Ward 8 citizenry on the part of the local government. The lone individual who bothered to put their name on the ballot was the guaranteed winner of Ward 8 hands down, no competition. So, to see Mayor Barry, who served four terms as DC’s Mayor in a constant, epic battle for the rights of the citizens residing in DC, was a breath of fresh air. He gave a voice to the most disenfranchised citizens in Washington DC and in particular a Ward that no one else cared about. For that, he was both loved and respected.

Don’t get me wrong, the Mayor’s life was not without controversy. But, who among us can cast a stone? Nevertheless, during his life, the media seemed to take particular pleasure in showcasing Mayor Barry’s shortcomings. Upon his death, the media, especially local media, sought to focus on his spectacular political life as opposed to his personal life and failings. Instead of jumping on that bandwagon, TMZ, a nationally syndicated magazine show on Fox 5, chose to focus on Barry’s personal life in the most disrespectful manner possible. Why?

There were many others who have died whose lives were at least as “controversial” as Mayor Barry’s, yet TMZ chose a more sympathetic approach in their report of the deaths. For example, while discussing Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger and Robin Williams, the magazine seemed to almost gloss over the fact that each of them died either due to their own addictions or by their own hands. There were no titles such as “Druggie Heath Ledger is dead” or “Mork orked himself.”

TMZ could have chosen to tell the world the complete story of Mayor Barry. They could have used their national voice to tell the true story of Mayor Marion Barry and not have reduced his legacy to a sound byte. They could have chosen to show at least the appearance of impartiality and fairness. Instead, they chose to add insult to injury for those who loved him. His death did not prompt TMZ to show respect.  As a result, I have no respect for TMZ, Harvey Levin and the machine that gives him a voice. I urge others to boycott this unfair program! Can anybody hear me?

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