World and Nation

For Controversial Detroit Mayor, This Crime May Be Too Much to Forgive

This city has forgiven Kwame M. Kilpatrick, its towering, charismatic, next-generation mayor, before.

Detroiters looked past accusations of cronyism, of partying with exotic dancers and of leasing a red Lincoln Navigator for his family with taxpayers’ money. In 2005, even as opinion surveys showed an older, more traditional challenger with a lead, voters re-elected Kilpatrick, who had been among the youngest mayors to run a major American city and whose unique draw, in part, was his sway over young voters.

But forgiveness seems uncertain now.

Demonstrators for and against Kilpatrick have clashed downtown in recent weeks. The City Council’s aldermen voted to audit Kilpatrick’s office, to expose records he hoped to keep private. A criminal investigation looms, and on Thursday an alderman introduced a resolution calling on Kilpatrick to resign.

With keystrokes on an electronic pager, Kilpatrick, 37, may have jeopardized the political promise that won him speaking roles at the Democratic National Conventions in 2000 and 2004 and the musings of many, including his mother and perhaps strongest advocate, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, that he might reach higher office — even the White House — one day.

In January, the Detroit Free Press published steamy text messages from a city-issued pager which revealed a romantic relationship between Kilpatrick, who is married and has three sons, and his longtime chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

Beatty resigned. After a week in seclusion, Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita, emerged on television, offering tense speeches from side-by-side wooden chairs in their church. He said he was sorry; she said she loved him, and deemed the matter private, “between me, my husband and God.”

But the specter of an affair was only the start of the trouble.

The text messages obtained by the Free Press contradict testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave under oath last year during a civil trial, in which several former police officers accused Kilpatrick of forcing them out of jobs, in part because their investigations might have uncovered his romance.

In court, Kilpatrick, who has a law degree, had scornfully denied carrying on a non-professional relationship with Beatty.

“My mother is a congresswoman,” he testified. “There have always been strong women around me. My aunt is a state legislator. I think it’s absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore. I think it’s disrespectful, not just to Christine Beatty, but to women who do the professional job that they do every single day.”

But the text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty, loaded with exclamation points and LOLs, allude to a romance with exchanges of banter, hotel room numbers, and worries about a security detail overhearing them. “And, did you miss me sexually?” Beatty wrote in one message, according to the Free Press. “Hell yeah!” the mayor wrote back. “You couldn’t tell. I want some more. Don’t sleep!”