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ABC News undermines all journalists in rewarding Rawlings-Blake

On Thursday, I reported that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was going to be part of the election-night coverage on ABC. She will be there as one of

On Thursday, I reported that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was going to be part of the election-night coverage on ABC. She will be there as one of several analysts.

Now for the opinion part: ABC News hiring Rawlings-Blake even for one night after she banned a local reporter from her weekly press briefing is as wrong in its own way as CNN hiring former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as an analyst.

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Don't get me wrong, I am sure CNN is paying Lewandowski a lot more for his continuing presence than ABC is for one night of a few comments from Rawlings-Blake. And Rawlings-Blake doesn't have the huge conflict Lewandowski does in still receiving money from Trump while appearing on CNN. She's only getting her other paycheck from Baltimore taxpayers who are presumably paying her to devote her full talents and attention to running the city.

But both she and Lewandowski tried to limit the access of reporters who were functioning as representatives of citizens and voters. And there is no way any press entity, whether it is CNN or ABC News, should be rewarding such bad and undemocratic behavior.

Lewandowski physically tried to restrain a reporter for Breitbart from getting next to Trump to ask a question at a public event.  The reporter, Michelle Fields, subsequently resigned from the news outlet, because she felt it was not being supportive of her after the incident.

With Rawlings-Blake, the offense is banning P. Kenneth Burns, a Baltimore public radio reporter, from her weekly press briefing this month after he questioned her closely about her role in running the Baltimore Police Department.

Worse, she said she was banning Burns because he "has consistently exhibited verbally and physically threatening behavior, particularly to my staff," though she offered no evidence of such behavior.

The ban has been denounced by Lynn Walsh, the national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, who called the mayor's action against Burns "unacceptable."

The Baltimore Association of Black Journalists also denounced the mayor's action and called on her to lift the ban.

"It is imperative that officials not abuse power or restrict citizens' constitutional right to receive information via a free press. It is when personalities clash or coverage could be deemed unflattering, that the power of our free press is a shining example to the world," the group wrote in a statement.

"For the foregoing reasons, we are concerned that your decision appears to be in response to an adversarial exchange, and not due to any imminent threats or danger. This is unacceptable and the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists, strongly rebukes your action and formally requests an immediate reversal."

I called her action "outrageously anti-democratic," and, believe me, that does not start to scratch the surface of how loathsome I find it.

ABC News can choose to employ anyone it wants. But when it employs someone who did what Rawlings-Blake did to Burns, it undermines every reporter who is trying to do his or her job honorably on behalf of readers, listeners or viewers.

Blurring the lines between politics and journalism by mixing political operatives with journalists in on-air coverage is one of TV's greatest sins against democracy – and it has never been more reckless than in this 2016 election. ABC used Rawlings-Blake Sunday as part of a roundtable on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." She blasted FBI Director James Comey with what sounded like Democratic Party talking points.

ABC executives better hope Rawlings-Blake does a better job for them than she has the citizens of Baltimore lately.

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