Quaint Sexting Scandal Turns To Flaming Wreckage As QAnon News Anchor Self-Destructs
Ethan Berkowitz, the Anchorage mayor who is the highest ranking Democratic official in the state of Alaska, stepped down this week after it was revealed that "several years ago" he had an "inappropriate texting relationship" with local reporter Maria Athens.
In simpler times, this would all be a fairly standard political scandal. A rather quaint one, really, given that as far as we know, nothing actually happened in person. We might even ask ourselves questions like "Why is this even a thing? Should he really resign over something like that? Are we really still pretending we care if politicians cheat on their spouses? And, really, do the Republicans have room to criticize an Alaska mayor for not stepping down over that kind of thing when they elected Donald Trump? Don't they kind of have to shut their mouths about that kind of thing forever?" before forgetting about it and both of them forever.
But it's 2020 and things are rarely that simple anymore.
As it turns out, the only reason we even know about any of this is because Maria Athens, the news anchor in question, is a QAnon/Save The Children believer who now thinks everyone is a pedophile and did not just accuse Berkowitz of having an affair with her, but also of being a pedophile, based on a story from another QAnon weirdo who was wrong about a thing, and her accusations against Berkowitz involved a ranting voicemail that got super anti-Semitic and involved death threats. Because, again, it's 2020.
Let's start from the beginning! Ish!
Several years ago, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz began a textual relationship with reporter Maria Athens. As far as we know, it never went further than that. At some point, he sent her a picture of his butt or some other unclothed part of his body.
Fast forward to last Friday, when Athens was interviewing the owner of a cookie shop, who is apparently the sister of a guy named Andy Kriner who owns a diner in Anchorage that's gotten into a bunch of drama with the city due to their insistence on staying open during the pandemic. The subject somehow turned to Mayor Berkowitz and what the cookie shop owner thought of him. She said she wasn't sure and then asked if he was short.
Athens says yes and then Cookie Shop Owner says that her daughter used to be a non-sexual escort in Anchorage and they have a whole conversation that results in Athens calling up Mayor Berkowitz and leaving this message on his voicemail.
Ethan, it's Maria Athens from Fox/ABC/CW/News Net National Alaska. Uh, I just learned through my g- my, eh, ah ... Emmy-award winning journalism, you're also a pedophile and like little girls and children, and there's a website. I'm so fucking exposing you. I'm gonna get an Emmy. So you either turn yourself in, kill yourself, or do what you need to do. I will personally kill you and Mara Kimmel my god damn self, you Jewish piece of living fucking shit. You have met your match, motherfucker. You have met your motherfucking match. I can't believe- I am such a good person, and thought I loved you. I fucking hate- I don't even hate you. I will pray for your Zionist fucking ass, you piece of shit loser. And, I'm putting this on the news tonight. Bye! Have a great Friday, you motherfucker!
After that, she went to the station to record a video teaser alleging that "Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has his male genitalia posted on an underage girls' website."
Athens then physically assaulted station general manager Scott Centers, who was also reportedly her boyfriend, and was arrested.
So what exactly was the conversation that prompted this? Well, when Cookie Shop Owner heard that he was short, she decided that he must be the same man who "worked for the state of Alaska" who her daughter, the non-sexual escort, said was her favorite client. The daughter found out about it and implored her mother to tell Athens that Berkowitz was never her client, according to a text message she (the daughter) posted to Twitter.
Her daughter has since explained what she believes occurred during the conversation (the rest of her Twitter is very NSFW, just FYI):
So for a bit of back story, I was an escort in Alaska in 2018. I would get paid to go on dates with men or to keep them company (I never did anything sexual or was paid for sexual favors)
She was obviously still very upset at the idea of her 18 year old daughter escorting. She started asking me questions about who I would work with, and all I told her was that my favorite person I worked with was a man that worked for the state of Alaska.
All I told her about this man was that he worked for the state of Alaska, and that he was short. That's IT, okay? I didn't say any names, nothing.
Fast forward to 2020, my mother owns a cookie business that's doing somewhat successful, and a local news station asked my mom if she would like to do a story about it. My mom said yes and went to the interview.
The interviewer was Maria Athens, who (according to my mother) asked her about what my mom thought about the local anchorage Mayor, Ethan Berkowitz.
My mom asked if he was short. After learning he was short, my mom decided that Ethan Berkowitz was the one I was an escort for.
She went off on a whole story about how I was an escort for Mr. Berkowitz, that he hired me for sexual favors, sent me pictures, etc. because she was receiving attention for what she was saying, and she wanted her five seconds of fame.
I was NOT an escort for Ethan Berkowitz, I don't know that man and I have NEVER met him. He has never sent me naked pictures or posted any on any of my websites, I have no idea who that man is. Maria Athens is running a fake story in attempts to ruin this mans life.
So there's that! It also turns out that Maria Athens had been frequently posting on the Save Anchorage! Facebook group that is reportedly focused on QAnon and accusing random people of being pedophiles.
I'm not really sure what the moral of this story is here, but I don't think it would have happened were it not for all of the QAnon/Save The Children hysteria. Ethan Berkowitz wasn't the only person whose life was ruined this week. Maria Athens also ruined her own life, a life she worked pretty hard for. She went to Seton Hall, she worked in journalism all her life, and now it's pretty unlikely she will ever have a journalism career again. She ruined her relationship with her current boyfriend. Her life is now definitely more ruined than Berkowitz's is — he can come back from a sexting scandal that no one really cares all that much about anyway, but she can't really come back from losing her shit this publicly.
This is what these conspiracies are doing to people. We can say that oh, maybe she has psychological problems that have nothing to do with QAnon and Save The Children — and that may well be true. But lots of people have psychological issues. This crap, however, has a way of tapping into something in people that makes them go off the deep end in a way they probably wouldn't have done otherwise.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse