News & Politics

Vince Gray’s First Post-Investigation Interviews: How Did the Washington Post Get Shut Out?

Photograph by Flickr user chesbayprogram.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray first print interview after the announcement that he won’t be charged with any crimes in a long-running investigation that sunk his reelection campaign didn’t run in a local outlet–it landed in the New York Times. The reason why is simple, says Chuck Thies, the former mayor’s campaign manager who is handling his media requests. The Washington Post, he says, didn’t ask. “It’s not like there was a stark decision to bypass the Post, but there was a gleeful decision when the New York Times was first to ask,” Thies says.

Thies says he asked the Times to hold its story till 10 AM Tuesday so as not to interfere with Gray’s interview with WTTG that morning. Gray appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Tuesday afternoon. Nnamdi, he says, was the first representative of a broadcast outlet to request an interview, but his afternoon time slot meant he had to follow WTTG.

Requests are one way to get an interview with Gray. Burning up some shoe leather is another. In the days since US Attorney Channing D. Phillips said Gray would not face prosecution, the former mayor has attended four public events. “There were multiple opportunities for any journalist to buttonhole Vince and interview him,” Thies says.

One Washington Post reporter texted after the Times piece appeared, Thies says, complaining about the out-of-town paper getting the scoop. That reporter, Thies writes in an email, “never contacted me and Gray never told me about the an email when we were discussing his media avails.” The reporter, he allows, may well have contacted Gray.

I asked the Post and two of its reporters who have covered Gray whether the paper had made any interview requests. Post spokesperson Kris Coratti replied, telling Washingtonian,We requested an interview with Mayor Gray through several channels and were never given a definitive answer.”

Certainly there is no lack of animosity between Gray and the Post. “I cannot speak for Vince at all but I can speak based on my experience and conversations with him,” Thies says, which “suggests very strongly that he is displeased with the Post‘s coverage of his mayoralty as well as this investigation.” That displeasure touches the Post‘s news coverage, but it “has to be applied exponentially on the editorial side,” Thies says. The Post‘s editorial board, which is separate from its news operation, was very critical of Gray during the investigation. It encouraged him not to run for a second term and, when he did, endorsed Muriel Bowser instead.

Gray’s list of grudges against the Post extends to its news operation as well: Metro reporter Paul Schwartzman mistakenly broke an embargo during the campaign, leading to some sharp words from Thies.

The Post, though, by no means occupies the only spots on the Gray camp’s shit list. WRC reporter Tom Sherwood, Thies says, spent the primary campaign “turning coverage into a circus-like atmosphere and turning many scrums into perp walks.” A Thies confrontation with Sherwood was captured in a video (which features a cameo by Washingtonian‘s Benjamin Freed).

"Chuck a bad boy..."

Posted by Peter C. Brooks on Saturday, January 11, 2014

I reached Sherwood by phone, where he said he was on his way out of the WAMU building following Gray's interview with Nnamdi. He says Thies "is a very good political operative and campaign manager. I don’t have any problems with what Chuck does, and I certainly don’t have any problems with anything I’ve done in that campaign or any other campaign." Gray, Sherwood says, didn't like the way he and other reporters "hounded him, but that comes with the territory if you're the mayor of the city" and facing the kind of controversy Gray was. "I think the mayor knows that I try to be an aggressive reporter but I want the best for this city," Sherwood says.

For now, Thies appears to enjoy this golden opportunity to needle other former tormenters. "For me there’s absolutely no concern that journalists at the Washington Post have to explain to their editors why they didn’t get the scoop," Thies says. "The primary reason they didn’t get the scoop: They didn’t ask."

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.