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Yes on 2 for Better Elections

A booze-infused cookie business, a rogue reporter, and an escort: The downfall of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz

The last five days have been some of the wildest in Anchorage politics I can remember. Events that began on Friday led to Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issuing a statement on Monday admitting a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens” and culminated with the mayor’s resignation the following day. The bewildering chain of events has left countless people in Alaska and beyond asking the same question:

What the hell just happened in Anchorage?

Today, I’m going to explain how we got here. Buckle up.

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URSA Optical

Friday

At 12:09 PM, FOX/ABC reporter Maria Athens posted a breathless video on her official Facebook page claiming that Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz “had his male genitalia posted on an underage girl’s website.” Athens did not explain the nature of the website or provide evidence for this shocking and bizarre accusation. She then stated there would be a story on the evening newscast. Athens’ post exploded on social media and quickly racked up thousands of shares and tens of thousands of views.

At 3:29 PM Berkowitz released a statement calling the allegations “slanderous” and “categorically false.” The statement also said the allegations appeared “to be the product of someone who is hostile and unwell.”

At 3:32 PM Athens posted a photo of the backside of a man, presumably intended to be Berkowitz, with the headline “PROOF Mayor Ethan Berkowitz #TakeThatHaters.”

At 4:42 PM Athens posted a more revealing version of the same photo with the headline “Nice try damage control, certainly First Lady Killer Mara Kimmel can confirm that is her husband’s hairy ass and bathroom tiles 🤣.” She also included a Landmine Facebook post in her post.

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Ed King

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz photo by Maria Athens

By this point the story had exploded across social media. Many denounced Berkowitz, and just as many rushed to his defense–all based on a questionable video and an ambiguous photo of a man’s naked back. But then it got even weirder. Later that afternoon Maria Athens was arrested for criminal misdemeanor assault. Athens reportedly attacked Scott Centers, the General Manager for Coastal Television Broadcasting (the parent company of the local FOX/ABC affiliate). Athens is (or was) reportedly in a romantic relationship with Centers.

Centers apparently called the police. According to a source at the Anchorage Police Department, Athens acted erratically and punched a police officer in the face outside the station, leading to her arrest. It did not take long for this to get out on social media. It was a wild ending to a wild day.

But we were just getting started.

Saturday

On Saturday morning, a Twitter thread appeared from @angelbbx2, who goes by the online moniker “Redhead Rae.” Rae’s posts proved to be the key that unlocked everything. Redhead Rae works as a model on OnlyFans, a British website known for providing subscription-based adult content. She is the daughter of Molly Blakeley, an Anchorage woman who sells booze-infused cookies.

Here is where it starts getting real loose.

In the Twitter thread, Rae explains that she worked as a “non-sexual escort” in Alaska in 2018. When Blakeley found out her daughter was escorting she was not happy. According to Rae, she told her mom her favorite client was a short man who “worked for the State of Alaska.” On Twitter, Rae goes on to say that her mom was doing an interview on Friday with Athens about her booze-infused cookie business. During the interview, Athens had apparently expressed her disdain for Berkowitz. Blakeley asked Athens whether Berkowitz was short. When Athens responded in the affirmative, Blakeley decided that the short man her daughter had told her about was none other than Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.

Rae makes it very clear this assumption was unfounded, and states that she has never met Berkowitz.

These tweets attracted immediate interest in Alaska. I reached out to Rae and she agreed to an interview.

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Sunday

I conducted an interview with Redhead Rae, the former escort and current OnlyFans model, on Sunday afternoon. According to Rae, her mother “lies for attention and makes up things for attention.” Rae explained that according to her relatives and her mother’s friends, Blakeley “like hates Ethan Berkowitz, and talks about it all the time, and like just genuinely hates that guy and wants him out of office.”

My interview with Redhead Rae is here:

I think it is important to note that Blakeley’s daughter, Redhead Rae, seems to be–by far–and I mean by miles and miles–the most honest and credible person in this entire saga.

I also contacted many people on the Kenai Peninsula, where Blakeley grew up, to ask about her. I was repeatedly directed to this episode of Hotel Impossible about Hooligans Lodging & Saloon, which Blakely used to own. The episode provides insight into Blakeley’s character.

Shortly before my interview with Rae I learned that Blakeley is Andy Kriner’s half-sister. In August, when Berkowitz ordered limitations on indoor restaurant dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kriner refused to comply and Kriner’s Diner remained open to dine-in service. The Kriner family became a symbol of defiance to Berkowitz. Following my interview with Rae I published this story, “Maria Athens scandal gets even stranger, Andy Kriner now part of the story.” I attempted to contact both Kriner and Blakeley before publishing, but neither responded. After the story came out I was threatened with litigation by Kriner’s daughter and Blakeley.

Blakeley then sent me this statement:

This past weekend there has been numerous rumors and allegations shared on public media. These false allegations are causing harm to my friends and family and as a result I want to clarify this situation: I have not nor ever was a source for any allegations/statements/conspiracies made by Maureen “Maria” Athens. I do not have an association with Ms. Athens and disavow any rumors which attempt to make a veiled connection with her and my family. These are misguided attempts to make connections which simply do not and have never existed. These allegations appear to be the result of inappropriate attention seeking and inaccurate information. They are slanderous to my personal and professional integrity and are categorically false.

But text messages and audio recordings between mom Blakeley and daughter Redhead Rae paint an entirely different picture. In an audio recording obtained by the Landmine, Blakeley acknowledges that she was the source of the story. In the recording, Blakeley states that she did not “make it up on purpose” and that she merely “added one and one together.” Blakely states that “nobody knows about us being involved in any way” and insists that she is a “full grown adult.”

Listen to the Landmine’s recording of Blakeley’s admission here:

 

Monday

Here is where the story truly flies off the hinges. Athens was arraigned on Saturday and was set to be released on Monday. At this point it was still unclear whether the photo actually showed Ethan – or what the hell was going on at all. Berkowitz’s staff had not responded to repeated inquiries over the weekend. At this point, rumors were beginning to spread that there was more to the story than Berkowitz’s initial press release had acknowledged.

At 4:30 PM Berkowitz released the following statement:

Three minutes later the Anchorage Assembly followed with their own press release:

It now seemed that the person in Athens’ photo was indeed Berkowitz. It was unclear what would unfold after this admission. Hours after Berkowitz and the Assembly released their statements, I obtained a disturbing voicemail that Athens had left Berkowitz on Friday. I published a story that evening that quickly went viral. In fact, the Alaska Landmine server was so overloaded we had to increase capacity by a factor of eight to stay online. In the voicemail Athens accuses Berkowitz of pedophilia, threatens to “personally” kill him and his wife, suggests that he commit suicide, declares that she will win an Emmy, and states “You have met your match, mother fucker! You have met your mother fucking match!” Athens calls Berkowitz a “Jewish piece of living fucking shit,” and states that she thought she couldn’t believe she thought she loved him.

You can listen to the wild voicemail here:

 

Strangely, after Blakeley falsely told Athens that her daughter was an escort for Berkowitz, they headed over to Kriner’s Diner for a snack. According to screenshots of texts sent by Blakeley to Rae, Athens had an emotional breakdown at Kriner’s. Blakeley claims that Athens had a “3 year affair” with the mayor, though she does not divulge the source of that claim.

Sadly, the story on the cookie business never aired. I am told the booze-infused cookies are delicious.

Tuesday

And just when you think it cannot possibly get any weirder…

On Tuesday afternoon I received a Facebook message from Sarha Shaubach, who grew up with Blakeley on the Kenai Peninsula and is a childhood friend. She provided me with additional audio recordings and screenshots of her conversations with Blakeley, which she also sent to Anchorage Assemblymember Christopher Constant. Over the weekend Blakeley had taken to social media to try and discredit her daughter. She told Shaubach that Rae was unwell and suicidal.

Blakeley wanted Shaubach, who is an advocate for mental health treatment, to convince me to stop reporting on the story because the growing drama could scuttle an important business deal between her booze-infused cookie business and Nestle Toll House. By now, events in Anchorage had snowballed into a national news story, and Nestle Toll House presumably wouldn’t appreciate discovering that a business partner had fed a reporter false claims about the Anchorage mayor’s involvement with a teen escort.

Shaubach was initially reluctant to send me recordings and screenshots of her conversations with Blakeley because of Shaubach’s lifestyle. Shaubach runs Northern Exposure, which she says is Alaska’s only BDSM and sex educational conference. Shaubach was International Ms. Leather 2013 and Ms. Alaska Leather 2011 and 2012. Oddly enough during the Charlo Greene debacle in 2014, Schubach’s sex club was the downstairs neighbor in the Downtown Anchorage building Greene was renting. Greene was later evicted in a what became a major media scandal. Shaubach eventually agreed to go on the record because, after reading Blakeley’s online statements, she felt it was important to get the truth out.

The Anchorage Assembly held a meeting Tuesday night. Berkowitz was not in attendance. Amid a flurry of speculation, Berkowitz’s Chief of Staff Jason Bockenstedt read a statement announcing that Berkowitz had resigned effective October 23 at 6 PM. The anti-Berkowitz crowd erupted in cheers. The meeting got close to coming unglued, and degenerated from there. One public commenter told the Assembly that the Assembly’s “Satanic laws” will be “cast into the fire,” further stating that the Municipality’s Sister Cities Commission (which I currently chair) had made Anchorage “the world’s best brothel.” Local personality Dustin Darden read Bible passages warning of the dangers of fornication while fumbling a large array of flags. Anchorage politico Bernadette Wilson, who used to host a talk radio show with Berkowitz, accused the Assembly of tyrannical overreach in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, quipping that “it was definitely a little awkward to be told to wear a mask by a guy who didn’t even wear pants.” People throughout the room laughed and cheered. It was one of the most surreal and chaotic Assembly meetings in recent memory.

And here we are. It’s obvious there is more to the story. Athens has been silent on social media since her release from jail.

The next weeks and months will prove pivotal for Anchorage. Once Berkowitz’s resignation takes effect, the chair of the Assembly becomes the acting mayor. Assemblymember Felix Rivera is the current chair, but few people seem excited about the prospect of Rivera becoming acting mayor. The Assembly is set to hold a special meeting on Friday to reorganize, at which point they will likely elect a new chair. The Assembly could choose to hold a special election 90 days or more after the vacancy occurs, but there is already an election scheduled for April. If a special election were to be held in late January, a runoff would be a likely outcome. This would collide with the regular April election. Because Berkowitz had already reached the end of his second term, the statutory limit, Anchorage was set to have a new mayor even before the recent drama began to unfold. Whoever becomes acting mayor on October 23 will likely stay in that role until July 1, when the new mayor takes office.

In Summary

The randomness of the events leading to this moment is truly hard to comprehend. The entire ordeal appears to have been the result of a chance encounter between Blakeley and Athens related to Blakeley’s booze-infused cookie business. Blakeley apparently fed Athens a false story about former-escort daughter Redhead Rae’s involvement with Mayor Berkowitz, which caused Athens to go into crisis because of her own romantic involvement with Berkowitz. Athens apparently flew into a rage, left Berkowitz a threatening anti-Semitic voicemail, posted a nude photograph of the mayor on social media, and began fomenting a false news story before being arrested and jailed. Meanwhile, Athens’ breakdown forced Berkowitz to disclose the “inappropriate” relationship with her, leading to his resignation. In less than a week, Athens’ career as a journalist appears to be in flames, Mayor Berkowitz has resigned in chaos, and Blakeley’s booze-infused cookie deal with Nestle Toll House may be in jeopardy.

The only person who appears to have come out ahead is Redhead Rae, whose OnlyFans account received a major bump in subscribers.

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Marlin Savage
13 days ago

My heart goes out to his wife and children. I’m sure it will negatively affect his childrens’ entire lives if not dealt with honestly and immediately. The sooner a child knows everything, the less the long term impact. I experienced a tragedy(death of a brother) at a young age and it definitely changed everything forever. That said, if Berkowitz hadn’t been such a dictator, I would feel more sympathy for him. I hope he acknowledges his family’s pain supersedes any loss of stature or political ambitions.

Amber
13 days ago
Reply to  Marlin Savage

Why aren’t we asking her (the escort) who the short man that was working for government at the time actually is?Shouldn’t he be prosecuted? She was a minor at the time?! We have a huge problem in this country/world trying to normalize pedophilia this needs to stop #SaveTheChildren

Marlin Savage
13 days ago
Reply to  Amber

Agree, law enforcement should leave no stone unturned………

PabloPistoffo
13 days ago
Reply to  Amber

Why should he be prosecuted?
According to her, she was 18 at the time.
We have a huge problem in this country with QAnon nutjobs and their wacky ass conspiracy theories.

Marlin Savage
13 days ago
Reply to  PabloPistoffo

Nobody said anything about prosecution. Thoroughly investigating is not prosecuting. A boy or girl has never said they were 18 when they weren’t……….

As far as “conspiracies”, Assange shined a light on some………

Susan Jackson
13 days ago
Reply to  Amber

She said she was 18.

Bebe
13 days ago
Reply to  Amber

And she was extremely clear that it was not sexual escorting.

Tom T
13 days ago
Reply to  Bebe

And she is just a “model” on Only Fans lol

NoCleverHanlde
13 days ago
Reply to  Amber

Prosecuted for what? She says she was 18 at the time and no sex occurred. Unless you can find evidence that both of those statements are false, there’s nothing there.

Anne
11 days ago
Reply to  NoCleverHanlde

That would be the basis of the investigation. Assuming someone never lies is arrogant and naïve.

RightDownwind
13 days ago

So… the cookies are located….?

Clint helander
13 days ago

The Landmine nails it again!!!!! Wow.

Areal Bilk
13 days ago

I don’t pity the mayor who made a colossal error in judgement but reposting the revenge porn in the name of “reporting “ is tabloid level blogging.

Eyeroll
13 days ago
Reply to  Areal Bilk

Right, because it’s not a crucial part of the story at all.

Areal Bilk
13 days ago
Reply to  Eyeroll

Yes is a crucial part of the story but they do not need to be reposted. Alaska has a law in place that prohibits distribution of said material. The screenshot and blur hardly complies with that law. Technically Woelber and Landfield could be charged with a class B misdemeanor for reposting them.
http://www.touchngo.com/lglcntr/akstats/Statutes/Title11/Chapter61/Section120.htm

Reply to  Areal Bilk

Oh lordy. The photo posted in the article doesn’t show anything except the blurred-out top of a person’s buttocks. In no universe would that be considered “porn,” and it completely fails (on multiple counts) to meet the definition of objectionable material in the statute you posted.

Robert Saget
13 days ago
Reply to  Areal Bilk

Areal, if you are a practicing attorney, I suggest that you phone the law school you attended and ask for your money back.

Ray J
10 days ago
Reply to  Areal Bilk

More like Areal Idiot.

Big E Juneau AK
13 days ago

And who was one of the first to run to the Mayors defense?? That would be Jeff Landfeild.

So much for “Non Partisan” reporting…

Katrina
7 days ago

As a former journalist, I find numerous issues with this article and “reporting.” It may be true, it may be false; it does not pass reporting or writing standards.

j a g
13 days ago

Either Blakely or Athens managed to do what an entire pissed off city couldnt do.
Get dum dum removed as Mayor. lol

BooHoo
13 days ago

The lesson learned here? Don’t have an affair with a reporter if you are a mayor and send her nudes. Three years later this dumpster fire of events could — literally — randomly start by a lady with a booze-infused cookie business.

Jenna Mae
13 days ago

I have to say it’s a relief to finally read a story that has been researched and states all the known facts. GreAt job Jeff and Paxton getting us as many facts as you could to Joe Q Public and making sense of this train wreck

Tom T
13 days ago
Reply to  Jenna Mae

Yeah what great research, she is a former escort and OnlyFans is just a place for “models”.

She is an escort genius! Like 99.99999% of the girls on only fans. The XXX content she is offering is video of her having sex with her clients.

Last edited 13 days ago by Tom T
Blumpkinator
13 days ago
Reply to  Tom T

Why does her lifestyle bother you so much? Sex work is real work.

You’re probably just bitter because you don’t get laid.

Tom T
12 days ago
Reply to  Blumpkinator

I’m not bothered at all. In my younger years I worked personal security for “strippers” at clubs and private parties. They were as much “just strippers” as Redhead Rea is “just a model” on Only fans. I’m only bothered by Jeff pissing on my back and telling me its raining. “I conducted an interview with Redhead Rae, the former escort and current OnlyFans model,” She is lying. You even admit she is lying. “Why does her lifestyle bother you so much? Sex work is real work.” Apparently you don’t believe her story of being just a “model” on only fans… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Tom T
Southern Observer
11 days ago
Reply to  Tom T

You sound mentally ill.

Tom T
8 days ago

Not believing a sex worker who is clearly lying about being a sex worker makes one mentally ill? Sorry believing the sex worker means you are more likely the one with mantel illness. Sane people don’t believe sex workers especially when they are clearly lying about being a sex worker.

Sorry the studies have been done. Those with diagnosed mental illness are overwhelmingly leftwing and not just left they are far far leftwing.

Last edited 8 days ago by Tom T
Lynn Willis
13 days ago

“The price of liberty, and even of common humanity, is eternal vigilance.”  Aldous Huxley:
(Thanks again Jeff)

Huh?
13 days ago

What a dumpster fire. None of us ever knows when a secret might suddenly lunge out of nowhere to bite you in the ass. The reporter must have a borderline personality, which the mayor has probably been worrying about for some time…

os2mac
13 days ago

This just goes to show how truly small town Anchorage really is.. the Kevin Bacon score of any one person to another random person in Anchorage is likely pretty low.

Dani
13 days ago

Directly to Athens, Girl u r in my thoughts and prayers. There has been so much evil and corruption going on in Anchorage. I am service dog assisted and feel strongly discriminated against. When I tried to get help from the State of Alaska they betrayed me on a level that has left me resentful. I’m a dumb ass and signed a Confidentiality Agreement so I can’t disclose anymore than that. I am so sorry that evil little man took advantage of u, but ur break down aided in the revealing of his true character. Oh yeah, my service dog… Read more »

The truth is out there
13 days ago

You forgot the part where Burkowitz called you on Friday and told you the owner of Kriners Diner was related to Blakeley. How Burkowitz felt it was a direct attack on him because of his and the diners previous dealings publicly with each other.

Tom T
13 days ago

If she has an “Only Fans” page she is not a “model” she is an escort you morons!

Brian Webb
13 days ago

Personally, what consenting adults do amongst themselves is their business. This was a screen blip for me…. I’m more concerned of what may come for the city, based on who comes out as “stunt-mayor” after Friday’s night of the long knives concludes at the assembly…..

WonTom
13 days ago

Is bernadette wilson just the dumbest cunt in the state or what?

12 days ago
Reply to  WonTom

You are a foul mouth dickhead. You like to talk about women in a demeaning way. I hope you are single with severe acne scars. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits.

WonTom
12 days ago
Reply to  Richie romero

Richie, for someone who likes to beat women you sure are a white knight on the webs.

You like rubbing one out to ms wilson?

12 days ago
Reply to  WonTom

I’m sure the thought of me “rubbing one out” excites you. Enjoy that thought crater face.

Dan the man
13 days ago

It’s interesting to see Bernadette Wilson make quips about the Mayor when she helped the last one take his off. Like, she was just the Maria Athens Beta test, what a failed experiment.

Lori Alaska
12 days ago

Has anyone gotten in touch with Netflix yet?

Jennifer C.
12 days ago

That Molly Blakeley and her entire family are such trailer trash. GROSS.

I am going to send a link to this article to Nestle Toll House so that can be aware.

Ray J
10 days ago
Reply to  Jennifer C.

Thanks Jennifer for so openly demonstrating what today’s liberals stand for. “If I don’t get my way, you don’t either.” Yep. There’s only one party that stands for fascism and is anti-free speech. It’s yours!

Lily
9 days ago
Reply to  Ray J

I don’t think you understand the difference between “free speech” and slander. You cannot tell people someone is a pedophile then claim “free speech” because if it’s false then it’s slander. Or in brief “made statements to cause harm to a person’s business, allege sexual promiscuity or horrible disease, or made a false statement about the plaintiff committing a crime.” Toll House meanwhile is a company and is allowed to do business or not do business with whomever they want because of capitalism. If an employee or contact would damage their brand, like a woman who lies to reporters, even… Read more »

Adam
11 days ago

This is article is gold! Thank you Landmine.

I really appreciate the “redhead rae” tie in. Her mother, the crazy a$$ cookie, lady must be so very proud!

Ray J
10 days ago

That’s what happens when you put liberals in charge of things. You get failure and decrepitude.

Pro-tip: don’t send via text every major detail of your life.

Last edited 10 days ago by Ray J