Deja Vu? Villaraigosa, TV reporter seen at Larchmont bookstore
Over the weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was spotted perusing the merchandise in a Larchmont bookstore with a local television reporter who is also a former Miss USA.
Earlier today, NBC Channel 4’s L.A. news website posted a story about the sighting, including a snapshot of the two together inside Chevalier’s bookstore with the mayor casually dressed, wearing shades and having a laugh. The woman, Lu Parker of KTLA Channel 5, is a general assignment news reporter and weekend anchor for the station.
And that made it newsworthy, given that the mayor’s prior relationship with a different TV reporter coincided with the widely publicized breakup of his marriage.
“Witnesses say they did not hold hands or kiss, but appeared very chummy,” the NBC Channel 4 story said. “Parker was seen touching the mayor’s chest and stomach while they spoke. She was also seen looking at a book about Kenya and overheard saying to Villaraigosa, ‘We should buy it for our trip.’ "
The mayor’s spokesman, Matt Szabo, declined to comment "on the mayor's personal life."
Parker could not be reached for comment. She has told KTLA-TV officials that she and the mayor started dating in March, and that the limited number of interviews she had with Villaraigosa were in October and November.
“There is no concern as to the ethics whatsoever,’’ said Don Corsini, general manager of KTLA-TV, which like The Times is owned by Tribune Co. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a personal matter.’’
Parker’s personal website contains a video clip of her interviewing Villaraigosa on election day in November. Its mere presence raises a question about whether she has been covering the mayor while also seeing him socially, a potential journalistic conflict of interest.
Villaraigosa’s romantic affair with Telemundo KVEA-TV Channel 52 reporter and anchor Mirthala Salinas in 2007 also raised the conflict of interest question and created a firestorm of publicity that tainted his first term in office. During his successful campaign for reelection this year, Villaraigosa continually apologized for the affair.
Salinas (left), who as a political reporter had covered such mayoral initiatives as his effort to gain control of the Los Angeles Unified School District, later quit after she was suspended for two months and reassigned by Telemundo to the station’s Riverside bureau.
Sue Otto, who owns the bookstore, said the two were looking over books displayed outside the store before walking in together.
“He’s been in before, but I didn’t recognize her,’’ Otto told The Times.
Authors Elizabeth Ford and Daniela Drake were signing copies of their newly released book, "Smart Girls Marry Money: How Women Have Been Duped Into the Romantic Dream — and How They’re Paying For I t," and invited the mayor and Parker over, Otto said.
“They gave her a copy,’’ Otto said.
-- Phil Willon
Photos: KTLA, Los Angeles Times