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Anchorage Mayor apologizes for the 'unsuitable messaging arrangement' with the news anchor

On Friday afternoon, veteran Anchorage news anchor Maureen "Maria" Athens released a Facebook video referencing unsubstantiated cl...


On Friday afternoon, veteran Anchorage news anchor Maureen "Maria" Athens released a Facebook video referencing unsubstantiated claims that the city's married mayor had shared pornographic images online. Hours later, Athens posted a nude photo, allegedly of the mayor, to back up her point.

The saga soon became even more strange. The mayor immediately refuted the accusation, calling Athens "hostile and ill," and the news station she worked for also dismissed her accusation. At the end of the day, Athens was arrested for reportedly attacking the station 's boss.

But on Monday afternoon, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) made a public apology and decided to engage in a "unsuitable messaging arrangement" with Athens, 41.

"I apologize to the Anchorage people for a big error in judgment I made a few years ago when I had a consensual, improper messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens," said Berkowitz, 58, in a statement shared with The Washington Post on Monday. "I am embarrassed and ashamed of the hurt that I have caused to my family and our society. I'm taking responsibility for my decisions.

The history to the controversy that Anchorage has transfixed remains murky, with Berkowitz continuing to refute Athens' allegations and remembering that the law enforcement authorities had already investigated and found that he had done nothing wrong. In the meantime, Athens did not respond to a request for feedback from The Post, and it is not clear if she is being advised by a lawyer.

In 2015, the Democrat became mayor of Alaska's most populous city. Previously, Berkowitz served as a state representative from 1997 to 2007, when he ran unsuccessfully for the lieutenant governor. In his last term as mayor, he's not ready for reelection this year.

Athens served as an anchor and reporter for Your Alaska Connection, which consists of KTBY and KYUR stations.

The video Athens posted on Facebook appears to have been filmed inside a news studio with another person holding a cellphone. In the video, Athens accuses the mayor, without proof or sourcing, of publishing illegal images on the "underage girls website." She promised to share further information about her news broadcast later that night. Thousands of people shared, commented and responded to the message, which is still live on Athens' Facebook page.

In the hours after the message, Berkowitz firmly denied the accusation.

"The slanderous accusations made by Your Alaska Connection reporter Maria Athens are categorically false and seem to be the product of someone who is aggressive and ill-advised," the mayor's office said in a statement on Friday. "We met with the boss of Ms. Athens, general manager of Scott Centers, who strongly disapproved of his employee 's remarks."

In response to that comment, Athens posted a picture showing a naked man from the back, but not showing his face, with the caption: "Good try damage control"

Later that night, Athens was arrested at Your Alaska Connection Station after a physical altercation with Centers, the station's general manager. Court records noted that the Centers were also in a romantic relationship with the reporter, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Centers and Athens are said to have battled in a car parked outside the news station, in the parking lot and inside the station. Athens allegedly hit the centers in the chest, the Daily News reported. Police said that when they arrested Athens at the station on Friday night, she charged an officer and attempted to smash the door of a police cruiser. She was charged with a fourth degree of assault, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

The news station did not immediately return a request for comments late on Monday.

The journalist stayed in jail on Friday and Saturday before making a court appearance on Saturday afternoon.

The Daily News confirmed that Athens had repeatedly disrupted the hearings, saying that she wanted to return to work on Monday. At one point, she cried out, "I have pancreatitis," the Daily News said. She paid $100 bail on Sunday, according to court records.

On Monday, Berkowitz said that the Anchorage Police Department and the FBI had investigated Athens' claims and found no proof to support her charges.

"It takes time to restore faith, and I hope you will allow me the opportunity to do so," Berkowitz said. "In the remaining months of my term, I will continue to work on the important issues facing us."

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