Told confidantes he hoped press conference would defuse issue.


In the latest shocker involving a ranking public official, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton disclosed on Thursday afternoon that he had fathered a child by "an individual who I had a relationship with." The mother was not identified in the mayor's prepared statement, but the Flyer has learned that she is Claudine Marsh, a foreign-born woman in her 30's whom the mayor became acquainted with outside his governmental routine.

Speaking to reporters summoned to the East Memphis office of his attorney, Mitchell Moskovitz, Herenton said he "look[ed] forward to pursuing the privileges and the responsibility" of caring for the child's needs.

"As the mayor, I have both a public and a private life," Herenton said. "However, I felt the compelling need to disclose this personal aspect of my life, and I respectfully request that the media respect my privacy as well as the privacy of all the individuals involved."

The 64-year-old Herenton, who has been divorced for years and is the father of three previous children, all now grown, insisted he would answer no questions on the matter of the newborn. "[A]s a practical measure," Herenton said, he would be referring all further questions to Moskovitz, who later indicated that the child was a four-month-old boy and confirmed that the mother was not a government employee of any sort. (Marsh had been employed by The Peabody, the Flyer learned.)

"As the mayor, I'm fully cognizant of my responsibility to the citizens who elected me," said Herenton, who asked that he be allowed to "move forward" with his mayoral agenda.

"I'm not going to be chased down for interviews by reporters," Herenton declared , in an echo of the recent controversy involving a television anchor who pressed him for the answer to a hypothetical question about his potential resignation as a means of furthering city-county consolidation.

To be pressed further by the media would "distract me from carrying out my duty as the mayor," Herenton said.

The Herenton bombshell came on the heels of national publicity attending state Senator John Ford's acknowledgement, in court hearings concerning requested child-support payments for a child he had fathered, that he was living in two different residences simultaneously, helping provide for two other sets of offspring, by as many mothers.

In calls made to confidantes Thursday morning, notifying them of his pending announcement, Herenton indicated that his decision to go public owed much to the news environment surrounding the Ford matter. The mayor said he hoped that going the press-conference route would help defuse the matter. There were reports also that an imminent legal procedure might have been the goad.

(The Flyer will bring further news as it develops.)

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