Mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker ‘pissed and angry’ after her team made ‘dismissive’ comments about local journalists

Cherelle Parker, the Democratic nominee for mayor, this week said she was “pissed and angry” after members of her campaign team made “dismissive” comments about local journalists in emails that were accidentally forwarded to a reporter.

The episode began when a staffer inadvertently sent internal campaign communications to Lawrence McGlynn with the Philadelphia Hall Monitor, a nonprofit news organization, in response to an interview request.

In the forwarded exchange, John Dolan, the deputy campaign manager, discusses with Aren Platt, a senior advisor to Parker, how to handle requests from McGlynn and Denise Clay-Murray, a freelance journalist who writes for the Hall Monitor, the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, and other publications. Clay-Murray had also asked for an interview with Parker for a profile in the Sun, which bills itself the “most trusted news source in the African American community.”

“I would suggest pushing off Lawrence and moving forward with Denise. I can slow roll him for a few weeks,” Dolan wrote.

“Let’s push her off without letting her know… ‘Denise, I’m working on getting this scheduled, give me a week or so…’” Platt responded. “Just be careful because she has already said that we are ignoring Black women journalists and truly independent media — irrespective of other circumstances. But we don’t want this to be too much of a narrative.”

Dolan also wrote that he was reluctant to comply with requests from smaller media outlets for “pieces that won’t get much coverage.”

Clay-Murray said that before the email exchange was accidentally leaked to McGlynn, the campaign had already agreed to an interview with her and Parker that is scheduled to take place next week.

But the exchange shed light on how the campaign manages Parker’s public image and led to accusations that it favors larger media outlets over smaller publications and diverse journalists.

Parker, who is Black and is poised to become the city’s first female mayor, said the comments were “not consistent with who I am or what I expect from my team.”

“I have made it clear that this is entirely unacceptable,” Parker posted on Twitter. “However, I understand the buck stops with me and I take responsibility for what comes out of my campaign.”

Parker also reiterated her commitment to ensuring Black journalists are not excluded from accessing her campaign — or her administration if she wins the general election and becomes mayor in January.

In her first in-person appearance after her primary victory was a surprise appearance at a Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists event in which she said the organization’s members “will have a seat at the table” and “be a substantial part in how we communicate our information to the public.”

Since then, Parker has made very few public appearances and has shunned most interview requests, including from The Inquirer and TV reporters.

Clay-Murray said that while she appreciated that the incident has brought attention to the marginalization of Black and independent journalists, she is also concerned about Parker’s accessibility to the media overall.

“It’s not just me. It’s all of us, and it’s bad,” she said. “The folks in Philadelphia, they deserve to know exactly what is going on with their government and the people who want to run it. They deserve to know what your plans are for the poorest large city in America.”

In the months before the Democratic primary, a highly competitive race that became the most expensive election in Philadelphia history, Parker’s was among the more accessible campaigns, quickly responding to requests from reporters, voluntarily disclosing personal financial information, and regularly making Parker available for interviews.

But thanks to Philadelphia’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate, Parker is expected to coast to victory over Republican David Oh in the general election, and she has rarely been seen in public since her May 16 primary win.

In written responses to questions from The Inquirer, Parker in July said she was spending the summer taking care of an emergency dental issue that surfaced at the end of the primary, going on vacation, meeting with supporters, and spending time with her son.

She said she wasn’t taking the general election for granted and planned to ramp up campaign activities after Labor Day.

As for Clay-Murray, she plans to go forward with her interview with Parker next week. The material will be used in an upcoming profile for the Sun.

“This is a very weird experience for me because I am not used to being the story,” she said. “I’m used to telling the story.”

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