Legacy in limbo: Ed Murray reflects on end of political career

SEATTLE -- In mid-July, as calls for his resignation began in earnest, Seattle’s embattled mayor tried desperately to shift attention elsewhere.

The Seattle Times had just published a blockbuster article, revealing the existence of a 1984 file detailing an Oregon child-welfare investigation. Previously thought destroyed, the contents of the file bolstered claims of abuse from Ed Murray’s former foster son, Jeff Simpson.

At the time of publication, the number of men accusing Murray of sexual abuse stood at four.

On August 1, after weeks of asking Murray’s staff if he’d agree to a sit-down interview about the latest revelations, I received a text from a member of his communications team, Will Lemke. He asked if I was interested in having Murray join our morning show for an interview that month.

“Yes,” I quickly replied, surprised they would offer. “What’s the preferred subject?”

Lemke mused, “Maybe budget preview, Trump de jour, local political take?”

Likely at the behest of their boss, Murray’s staff was desperate for the press to focus on anything but the allegations. But Lemke understood, and I reiterated, that no question would be off limits if the mayor stepped foot in our studio.

After a bit of discussion, we opted for a formal sit-down interview about Murray’s legacy. We would discuss his career of accomplishments, and the allegations that threatened to overshadow them.

The interview took place on August 17 at Pike Place Market – weeks before a fifth accusation would ultimately lead to Murray’s resignation.

If there was ever an indication of what Murray’s legacy might be, we found it quickly as the two of us strolled around the marketplace, shooting some standard television B-Roll.

“Hey” Murray said as he waved at a woman there with her children.

“You should quit!” she shouted in return.

During the interview, Murray seemed to understand that his legacy was in limbo.

I asked if he was concerned that the allegations, which he has repeatedly denied, would overshadow other career accomplishments, such as marriage equality.

“They probably will in the short run,” he said. “But hopefully in the long run, with time and the opportunity to, as time goes on, maybe have people listen to the other sides of the story, hopefully people will realize that some other things are going on here. Some of them political. Some of them I think by some people who are terribly damaged by the way they were raised and got caught up in something that I don’t fully understand. It’s my hope that eventually that will come out. It’s my hope that people who have known me for the last 30 years that I’ve been involved in politics know that I am not that person. Hopefully people will realize that one side of the story, the ancient myth that gay men prey on children, has not fully been vetted by most of the media. When that’s done, hopefully my legacy will be in a better place.”

Or, as Murray told me during a separate interview about the allegations in April, he will be remembered only as an “unemployable pedophile,” who was forced to resign in disgrace.