August 3, 2007 / 8:02 PM / 12 years ago

TV journalist in affair with L.A. mayor keeps job

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Spanish-language TV journalist, who broadcast news of the marriage break-up of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while having an affair with him, will keep her job amid accusations of ethical lapses.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at a rally in Los Angeles, October 27, 2006. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

In the latest twist of the scandal engulfing one of the most promising Latinos in U.S. politics, Mirthala Salinas, 35, was suspended without pay for two months at KVEA-TV Channel 52, the Telemundo network said late on Thursday.

Salinas and two executives were reprimanded after a three-week Telemundo inquiry found there had been a “flagrant violation” of ethical guidelines at KVEA, a leading Spanish-language news channel in a city where 46 percent of residents are Latino.

Salinas has been on paid leave since early July when her affair with Villaraigosa, 54, was revealed by local media and confirmed by the mayor.

It was Salinas who read the newscast in June that Villaraigosa was officially separating from his wife, Corina, after more than 20 years of marriage. His name is a combination of hers — Raigosa, and his own — Villar.

Salinas had previously been a reporter covering city politics when she was dating him but was reassigned as news anchor after telling KVEA of her friendship with the mayor.

Villaraigosa, son of a Mexican immigrant, was elected in May 2005 as the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles in 130 years and seemed to symbolize the political ascension of the booming but underrepresented Latino population in the United States.

The charismatic Democrat was seen as a possible future California governor and even a presidential candidate. Energetic and media-friendly, some of his critics have dubbed him “Mayor Photoraigosa” because of his frequent media appearances.

His marriage split and news of his affair with Salinas have been the talk of the town for weeks. But with another two years in office and three years before the next governor’s race, his attitude has been one of business as usual and multiple mea culpas.

Besieged by reporters on Friday while at a ports news conference, Villaraigosa declined to comment on the outcome of the probe by Telemundo, which is part of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal division.

“I have been a distraction to the people of Los Angeles and I am deeply sorry that I have let so many people down, especially my family. But it’s time to move on,” he said.

Asked about reports that internal polls showed his approval ratings were down, he replied; “We are having an election in two years and we will have a better idea just where my numbers stand ... I’m going to focus on my job.”

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