By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
11:46 AM EDT, April 28, 2013
Reviewing national media coverage of the Black Guerrilla Family's virtual takeover of the Baltimore City Detention Center, it's impossible not to feel the pressure mounting on Gov. Martin O'Malley who is expected to return this week from a trip to the Middle East.
And how he handles the scandal could go a long way in determining how well he does or doesn't do with those national aspirations we've been hearing so much about the last year. I can see the image of Black Family Guerrilla gang leader Tavon White, who is alleged to have held virtual control of the detention center, haunting O'Malley in attack ads throughout any future campaigns. Can you say Michael Dukakis?
I expected to see it get political on right-wing Fox News, and I was not disappointed. As I wrote in a piece yesterday, Fox's biggest gun, Bill O'Reilly, and its biggest hot dog, Geraldo Rivera, were all over O'Malley in reporting the story as something you might expect to see in a prison in Mexico run by a drug cartel, but not here "in the U.S.A.," according to O'Reilly.
"I'm going to demand right now, Gary Maynard be fired," O'Reilly said of the man in charge of Maryland prisons Friday night. "If he isn't, we're going to deal with O'Malley... He [Maynard] should have resigned anyway. In Japan, he probably would have to commit suicide."
And, "if O'Malley doesn't fire him, it's on O'Malley," O'Reilly added, saying that he and Rivera would enforce accountability if no one else was going to do it.
Bluster? Ideological rabble-rousing? Sure, it's Bill O'Reilly and that's the way he rolls.
But here's NPR's Scott Simon showing almost as much shock as O'Reilly over what was going on at the detention center, allegedly for the four years that White, who is awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge, was all but running the place.
Simon interviewed Sun reporter Ian Duncan who has been providing in-depth coverage all week.
SIMON: In many ways, the Baltimore Detention Center seems to have served as an office for Tavon White, and arguably maybe even safer for him than the streets of Baltimore because of course he runs it.
DUNCAN: That's right. I mean, he seems like a big figure in the terms of this case, but there's a chance he was in sort of a middle manager in the sort of larger scope of the Black Guerrilla Family.
SIMON: Do I gather Governor O'Malley has been away?
DUNCAN: Yeah, he's been in Israel this week.
SIMON: He's reportedly forming an exploratory committee to run for president?
DUNCAN: That's right, yeah.
SIMON: Pretty big issue to deal with first.
DUNCAN: Yeah, I mean, he was known as being sort of the tough on crime and he was the mayor of Baltimore. He's going to have to answer some questions about whether he's going to be able to clean up this jail and any other problems with the prisons as well.
That's Simon, one of the smoothest interviewers in any medium, subtly and deftly focusing the national spotlight on O'Malley and what he's going to do and say about the prison scandal when he returns.
Let me just link to the interview with the Daily Beast last week in which Maynard talked about going golfing. You can draw your own conclusions as to the wisdom of that remark.
And here's a link to O'Malley telling the Sun Editorial Board on April 10 what an outstanding administrator Maynard is. "Awesome" is the word O'Malley used to describe Maynard.
I'm just a simple, country media critic, not a communications consultant genius like the folks who craft campaigns for candidates like O'Malley, but I can imagine an attack ad that might go something like this:
"Martin O'Malley says he's ready to lead America. But let's see how he did when he was leading Maryland. Under O'Malley's leadership, this member of the Black Guerrilla Family (picture of Tavon White fills screen) took control of a Maryland prison for four years while he was awaiting trial for murder. He sold drugs, impregnated four female guards, bought luxury cars and enforced beatings and stabbings of other prisoners. The reign of terror only ended when outside investigators stepped in. Is this the kind of leadership we can expect from a Martin O'Malley administration in Washington?"
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