We've been getting a lot of feedback on our interview Thursday afternoon with New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger and wanted to take a moment to address it.
I understand that many of our viewers thought the interview unprofessional and that we were harassing Mr. Berger.
First of all let me be clear that I was the one interviewing Mr. Berger, not our reporter Cliff Pyron. Cliff only reported on the story in our newscasts.
Now, here's my take on the whole situation as News Director. Mr. Berger chose to run for elected office. In doing so, he placed himself in a world where people have certain expectations of him and, right or wrong, hold him to a higher standard than that of an average private citizen.
Mr. Berger has been nothing but a distraction since he took office late last year. The police have been called to his house at least three times now. He has been arrested and charged with domestic violence (those charges were later dropped.) He has a difficult time being punctual. He has accused another commissioner of stealing. He has accused all of the commissioners of conspiring against him. He has come close to being censured. Security has been beefed up at meetings because other commissioners don't feel safe when he's in the room. And now he's been forced to go to the hospital because he took a razor and starting slicing his arm to get his ex-girlfriend to feel sorry for him.
Mr. Berger also went on a radio station sympathetic to his cause and claimed that the Wilmington Police Department and the local media fabricated details about his suicide attempt. He claimed he didn't own a gun, which the police report said he did. And he was upset that the box on the form that said "drugs/alcohol involved" was checked. He then changed his story once the police report was released and admitted he did own a rifle, but that the report said he had a pistol and that was wrong. He also admitted to police that he was on an anti-depressants, which one can only assume that's why the officer checked the box. But he made a big deal that he hadn't had a "wine cooler" in more than a week and that he wasn't doing illegal drugs. He also claimed it wasn't a suicide attempt, even though the police later produced a picture of his bloody arm which he had cut with a razor, and texts he had sent to his ex-girlfriend that claimed she wouldn't have to worry about him after that night.
Folks, I understand Mr. Berger is a poster child for sympathy and empathy. But as a county commissioner, personal and/or mental issues don't give you a free pass when you make allegations that aren't true. Just because you may feel sorry for the man, or think he's not as "tough" as other local politicians, doesn't mean we're not going to ask him tough questions. If he chooses to throw the police department or us under the bus in public, then he needs to be able to back up his claims. When we politely ask him to sit down with us to help us understand his accusations better, but then ducks, dodges and hides, we then have every right and responsibility to try to get in front of him when the opportunity arises.
I hope Mr. Berger gets the help he needs and deserves. I also hope he takes some time this holiday weekend to assess the damage he's done both to his reputation and the county commission. Hopefully Mr. Berger will have an a-ha moment and decide to do the right thing.
WWAY News Director
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