A massive scandal erupted in Anchorage, Alaska over the last week that forced the resignation of the city’s Democratic mayor — the top-ranked elected Democrat in the state — and resulted in the arrest of a local TV news anchor who had leveled serious, but unproven allegations of sexual impropriety and misconduct against him.
According to Fox News, now-former Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced his resignation Tuesday after admitting to having been engaged in an “inappropriate messaging relationship” with local news anchor Maria Athens.
Athens had accused the mayor of posting nude photos of himself to what Fox News called an “underage website.”
The allegations from Athens prompted an investigation by the Anchorage police and the FBI, but both law enforcement agencies have since announced that there was “no immediate evidence to support a violation of federal law,” according to Fox. Still, authorities said, “the FBI Anchorage Field Office continues to monitor the situation.”
A dizzying turn of events
According to a rather dizzying timeline of events put together by the Anchorage Daily News, it appears everything started last Friday when Athens misconstrued a comment from another woman she was interviewing in-studio as implicating the mayor in wrongdoing.
That misunderstanding prompted the anchor to call the mayor — right in front of the interviewee — and leave him a lengthy, expletive-laced, and allegedly anti-Semitic voicemail in which she accused him of pedophilia, threatened to kill both him and his wife, and vowed to expose him with what she was certain would be an Emmy Award-winning report.
Berkowitz, for his part, reportedly called back shortly thereafter to deny the allegations posed against him, but Athens proceeded to tease her big story on social media and even posted a photo as supposed proof. The mayor’s office later released a statement officially denying the anchor’s “slanderous” claims, according to Fox.
Later that day, as everything continued to spiral out of control, Athens got into a physical altercation with the TV station manager, who she was engaged to, and then fought with police officers when they arrived to settle the dispute. Fox News reports that Athens has since been charged with assault, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct. She was released from jail after posting bond.
“I take responsibility”
According to CBS News, Berkowitz has since acknowledged his participation in a years-long “inappropriate messaging relationship” with Athens — though it is unclear if that affair was ever physical — and on Tuesday night, he submitted his letter of resignation to the Anchorage Assembly.
“My resignation results from unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required,” the mayor wrote, according to CBS.
He went on: “I apologize to the people of Anchorage for a major lapse in judgment I made several years ago when I had a consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens. I’m embarrassed and ashamed for the hurt I’ve caused my family and our community. I take responsibility for my actions.”
Berkowitz, who was re-elected to a second and final term as mayor in 2018, did not respond to requests for comment from CBS. His resignation will reportedly take effect on Oct. 23.