As the whirlwind of rumors created by Fox/ABC/CW/NewsNetNationalAlaska reporter/alleged criminal Maria Athens settled this weekend—culminating, at least we thought, with her arrest after allegedly assaulting a man (who is not the mayor) in the parking lot—we were left with one nagging question:
Just where did that picture that sure looks like the salt-and-peppered Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who Athens accused of the heinous crime targeting underage girls, come from exactly?
A reverse image search on Google turned up no results, suggesting that at the very least she hadn’t stumbled across an image that looked like Berkowitz and attached it to the claim that it was posted on “an underage girl’s website.” Was it really him? And if so, how’d she get ahold of it? Was his phone hacked? Had someone snuck a photo at the gym?
Well, it turns out that the story—which includes a non-sexual escort’s mom with a Kriner’s Diner connection—still has its bizarre twists.
Today we found out that Athens got that photo… consensually from Mayor Berkowitz.
He confirmed as much in a statement today:
“I apologize to the people of Anchorage for a major lapse in judgment I made several years ago when I had a consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens. I’m embarrassed and ashamed for the hurt I’ve caused my family and our community. I take responsibility for my actions. A joint investigation into the recent allegations made by Ms. Athens was completed by the Anchorage Police Department and FBI and found no evidence of criminal conduct.
It takes time to rebuild trust and I hope you afford me the opportunity to do so. During the remaining months of my term, I will continue working on the important issues we face.
Please consider my family’s privacy during this difficult time.”
Berkowitz’s term as mayor expires in April 2021, when he will reach the term limit for the office.
He’s faced a particularly harsh conservative backlash to his handling of the covid-19 pandemic, on which his administration has generally led the way in Alaska in hunkering down, limiting in-person dining and reclosing restaurants amid the second spike in cases. Much of that has come from the right-wing, conspiracy-fueled and frequently anti-Semitic circles of Facebook and Alaska politics.
Athens has been a particularly fierce critic of Berkowitz with her Facebook page including several pro-Trump posts, a post about how much she “HATES” the local hospital for limiting visits and several maskless visits to Kriner’s Diner, a restaurant that very publicly refused to comply with the mayor’s lockdown orders.
It’s apparently at Kriner’s Diner where Athens ginned up the story about Berkowitz’s alleged transgressions, according to reporting by the Alaska Landmine. According to a former non-sexual escort, her mother and Athens collaborated on the story while eating at Kriner’s. Her mother is also, according to that report, the half-sister of diner owner Andy Kriner.
According to the Landmine, “her mother told Athens it was not true but Athens said, ‘I can make it true and ruin his life.’”