Wednesday, February 9, 2005

BALTIMORE — Mayor Martin O’Malley yesterday denounced rumors of infidelity, as his wife stood by his side and described how the rumors spread on the Internet by an aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. were affecting their children.

“These are despicable lies. These are falsehoods,” Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat who is thinking about running for governor in 2006, said during a morning press conference in front of City Hall. “I have always been faithful to my wife from our first date until this date. She is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”

Mr. O’Malley, who has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, said he and his wife, Catherine, have known about the rumors for about 18 months but thought “it was a falsehood that would blow through.”

But the rumors persisted.

According to the rumor, Mr. O’Malley fathered a child with a television news reporter and separated from his wife, who is a judge and the daughter of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

“It became pretty apparent that this was something sustained, something orchestrated, something relentless and something that others were working very hard to make sure it would not go away,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Mrs. O’Malley described the rumors as “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to endure.” She spoke of the effect of the stories on their four children, who are ages 2 to 14.

She described how 7-year-old William brought home a report card last week and needed it signed. She said she signed it, but William insisted that his father sign it, too.

Mrs. O’Malley, who has been married to the mayor for 14 years, recalled William saying: “‘If Daddy doesn’t sign it, then they’re going to think that we’re in a divorce,’ and I just looked at him and my heart broke.”

Both the mayor and his wife thanked the press for not publishing or broadcasting the rumors earlier.

“Katie and I are glad to be done with this,” he said, “and we’re going to go back to the people’s business.”

O’Malley aides said after the press conference that the mayor and his wife would like an apology from Mr. Ehrlich, who has said he didn’t have anything to do with the rumors.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, asked for and received the resignation of Joseph Steffen, who confirmed Tuesday that he had discussed the rumor on the conservative Web site and in private e-mails, which were given to The Washington Post.

Mr. Steffen, a spokesman for the Maryland Insurance Administration who had held a series of jobs in the Ehrlich administration, told the Baltimore Sun: “The governor had no idea. I don’t even think he knows where the Web site is. If anyone is guilty, it is me. There was no outside influence.”

Mr. Steffen discussed the rumors on in the summer. He posted them under the name NCPAC, a reference to one of his early employers, the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

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