In July 2007, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement that he and his wife of 2o years were separating. Later that day, on the evening news, Telemundo television anchor, Mirthala Salinas, delivered the story to her Spanish-language viewers.
What Salinas forget to mention was that she was the other woman in Villaraigosa’s life. Later, both confirmed the affair in separate statements.
“I have a relationship with Ms. Salinas, and I take full responsibility for my actions,” said Villaraigosa.
“I first got to know the mayor at professional level,” Salinas said. “The current relationship grew out of our existing relationship.”
Rumors of the relationship had surfaced in late January via blogs commenting on the secret lovers. Pictures showed up of the two together as well as a rumor that Salinas was pregnant, which Villaraigosa denied in his statement about the affair.
In an interesting twist, this is not the first time either one of the public figures have been involved in affairs. Villaraigosa has two daughters out of wed lock which led to his wife filing for divorce in 1994, but later the couple reconciled.
Salina’s was involved in a relationship with another politician in 2003, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who was a longtime friend and ally of Villaraigosa. At the time, the revelation raised questions about Salinas’ ethical standards.
Many people feel she again compromised her journalistic integrity to sleep with Villaraigosa on whom she was reporting. Salinas has been chastised for continuing covering the mayor throughout their affair.
“There really is no question that this is unacceptable,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. “You can’t sleep with your sources. This one sort of transcends the boundaries in any ethical newsroom.”
Both Telemundo executives and Villaraigosa stood up for Salinas and her journalistic integrity.
“Mirthala Salinas is one of our most respected reporters and a great professional,” said Manual Abud, Telemundo’s general manager in Las Angeles. “Telemundo is fully committed to journalistic excellence. Every day we strive for the highest standards of journalistic ethics and make every effort to protect our objectivity and possible conflicts of interest.”
It has not clear how long Telemundo knew about the affair, but others in the journalism world have criticized the Spanish-language station for allowing Salinas to break the news of Villaraigosa’s separation.
“I think Telemundo is going to have to really take a hard look at this,” said Laura Castaneda, an associate professor of professional practice for the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. “It doesn’t reflect well. Telemundo has no excuse.”
After Salinas’s suspension in August, she was transferred out of Las Angeles to the Telemundo Inland Empire news bureau to be paired with Mary Parks at KNBC-TV.