Following a surreal night of aggressive, potentially illegal policing, one of the few bright spots Tuesday morning came when Swann Street resident Rahul Dubey emerged from his row house, along with some 70 protesters he’d sheltered there overnight, shielding them from arrest. Within a 24-hour whirlwind, Dubey went from an unknown, 44-year-old health care entrepreneur, to a national hero, as the media learned that he’d taken in dozens of strangers who’d been pinned in on his block by law enforcement.
The stories about Dubey had focused on his selfless act—”I know in my heart of hearts that you would open the door, too,” he told Washingtonian Tuesday morning—and the experiences of the demonstrators who stayed with him, many of whom said they’d been tear-gassed or pepper-sprayed. That is, until Tuesday evening, when the Washington Post published an article that included comments from Dubey’s landlord, who says Dubey is late paying rent on the Swann Street house.
“I don’t mean to disparage the guy, as he’s being held up as this good Samaritan,” the landlord, Steven Maviglio, told the Post, “but that also means paying your rent.”
Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Dubey still sounds upbeat. He says he can’t believe the amount of attention he’s gotten. Other than talking to an occasional health care publication, he says, “I don’t get press.” Asked what he makes of his landlord’s comments, as well as the Post‘s decision to print them, Dubey says, “I didn’t even read it, to be honest with you. I don’t care, to be honest. I don’t even want to spend my time reading it.”
Dubey says he’d never before spoken to Maviglio, until he called Monday night in the midst of the chaos. “The guy called me and asked me about his home during the riot. He asked me about his property,” says Dubey. “I was like, everyone is okay. He was like ‘oh.’ That’s who I’m dealing with.”
By Wednesday morning, a Go Fund Me page had been set up to help Dubey cover his rent (its organizer has since deactivated it at Dubey’s request). Dubey, CEO of Percynal Health Innovations, says he’s fine. “I’m a 1099 independent contractor,” he explains, and because of coronavirus, business has dropped off. “I filed for government assistance. Right now, I’m not getting any invoices in. I’m getting zero income. Right now, I’m just holding off [paying rent] until I get an answer from the government. I can eat, and I have everything I need. As soon as I get an order to pay, I’ll pay.”
Asked why the newspaper thought it relevant to publish that Dubey is behind on rent, a Post spokesperson responded by email: “In reporting on the events that occurred at this residence, our reporter did his due diligence and spoke with both the owner of the house and the tenant. The story shared what both had to say, including on the matter of rent, and we wanted to provide a complete picture for our readers.”
For now, Dubey is looking forward to getting some sleep. “I got about six hours last night, but I was up for 42 hours,” he says. “Tonight, I’ll sleep really well.”
*This story has been updated with a comment from the Washington Post, and to reflect that the Go Fund Me fundraiser is no longer active.