Aide to Maryland Commissioner Resigns After Admitting Spreading False Rumors About Baltimore Mayor

February 10, 2005

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley on Tuesday accused Gov. Robert Ehrlich administration of spreading false rumors that he had an extramarital affair.

Hours later, Ehrlich fired a longtime employee.

The mayor, a Democrat considering a bid for governor in 2006, said he believes that the widespread and persistent rumors were part of a “concerted and orchestrated and sustained” effort and called on the Republican governor to apologize to his wife and children.

“I don’t think any of us run for office expecting that this sort of hurt will be heaped on our kids or our spouses,” O’Malley said.

Ehrlich denied any personal involvement in spreading the rumor, The Washington Post reported. But he asked for and received the resignation of Joseph Steffen, a longtime aide working in state government as the communications director for the Maryland Insurance Administration and Commissioner Alfred Redmer.

Steffen confirmed Tuesday that he had discussed the rumor on a popular conservative Web site and in private e-mails, which were given to The Post.

“Let me tell you, I don’t put up with this, and I will not put up with this. Bottom line,” Ehrlich said.

Steffen told The (Baltimore) Sun, “The governor had no idea. I don’t even think he knows where the Web site is. If anyone is guilty, it is me. There was no outside influence. It was all me.”

Rumors about O’Malley’s marriage have been widespread, but the mayor spoke about them publicly for the first time Tuesday. The mayor, who has been married for 14 years and is the father of four children, said in an interview that he has never cheated on his wife, Catherine O’Malley, who is a Baltimore judge.

“I have always been faithful to my wife, from our first date to this date,” O’Malley said.

Steffen discussed the rumors on the conservative Web site FreeRepublic.com during the summer of 2004. He posted them under the name NCPAC, a reference to one of his early employers, the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

In his postings in the chat room, and during a brief interview at his Maryland Insurance Administration office Tuesday, Steffen told The Post that he has a reputation for hardball politics.

“They call me the Prince of Darkness,” Steffen said in the interview.

In the mid-1990s Steffen worked on Ehrlich’s congressional staff, and during Ehrlich’s 1996 re-election campaign, Democratic candidate Connie DeJulius blamed Steffen for a leaflet that described her as a home wrecker.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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