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Herenton Defends "Damaged" Lee, Slams Feds and Media, and Hints He May Run Again

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In a free-wheeling press conference Thursday that began with an impassioned defense of "unfairly damaged" former MLGW head Joseph Lee, newly released from the threat of federal prosecution, Mayor Willie Herenton covered the waterfront of his grievances - against the media (both black and white), against alleged conspirators in the business community, and against a system of justice that he considers "plantation"-based.

In the process, Herenton decried both the media and the FBI for focusing their attention on blacks in general and himself in particular and pointed them in the direction of former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, whose eyebrow-raising stock arrangements with the now-defunct Delta Capital Management Company got attention from the press and the feds which, the mayor implied, was too brief and was prematurely dropped for reasons both racial and political.

Condemning recent Commercial Appeal articles suggesting that he was under federal investigation for possible improper involvement in city contracts extended two African-American associates, Elvin Moon and Cliff Dates, Herenton denied that he had been directly questioned in the matter, contended he had more white friends and business associates than black ones and said, "The perception is that if you're African American and do business, you're corrupt."

Continuing in a recent pattern of ex post facto revisionism, Herenton appeared to deny that he had ever directly sought the superintendency of Memphis City Schools and characterized his now-famous "resignation" letter of mid-March to city CAO Keith McGhee as having been based on "conditions" for improving the schools - though it was pointed out to him that the letter was a terse announcement that he intended resigning as of July 31 and mentioned neither the word "conditions" nor anything about MCS.

Asked directly if he had intended to resign back in March and if he still intended to resign now, the mayor insisted that he would continue to serve and jokingly suggested that he might reconsider his previous statements that his current mayoral term would be his last. "I was thinking of retiring, but maybe I'm doing something right," said Herenton, who had previously contended that current allegations of illegality against him, like an alleged blackmail plot against him last year, stemmed from the fact that "they can't beat me in an election."

(More details to come.)

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