The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh, a member of the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors, is at the center of a controversy involving an all-too-convenient $500,000+ in profit from her “Healthy Holly” books. Mayor Pugh profited from the sale of the series in a supposed attempt to end childhood obesity. The UMD Medical System, among other organizations, purchased thousands of copies of her self-published book over the course of a few years, bringing Mayor Pugh’s integrity into question.
In the face of this scandal, the city council has called for her resignation. She, on the other hand, is insistent that after her recovery from pneumonia, she will return to office loaded with apologies for actions that brought on public distrust and the inkling of an unsavory business deal.
But I digress. The true horror, I’d argue, is more the contents of the series itself. Even beyond literary circles, the phrase “self-published” raises eyebrows and lowers expectations. “Healthy Holly” is a joyful romp through a hellhole of spelling errors, typos, character inconsistencies and flaws.
Amid other grammatical atrocities is the misspelling of the word “vegetable,” coupled with the book series major flaws in character motivations. For instance, in “A Healthy Start for Herbie”, a young child’s initial instinct upon meeting her newborn brother is to ask when he can exercise. The story follows her disappointment as she interrogates her mother about what brutally strict health regimen the baby can maintain. This leads the reader to conclude that perhaps Mayor Pugh isn’t the only fake one here.
Jokes aside, the whole scenario still reads like clickbait, except all that makes it a meme is factual. Mayor Pugh has expressed her full intent to return to office despite the fact that Baltimore City Council has reached a consensus: she must resign immediately. At the briefing, in which she addressed the scandal and her involvement in it, she apologizes for doing anything to make the public question her integrity and commitment to the city’s well-being.
She then proceeds to demonstrate her good intent by showing off her up-and-coming baby’s clothing line that promotes healthy eating and exercise in the presumed newborn and toddler demographic.
I can say with sincerity, the more I followed the breaking story, the more I laughed because of just how bizarre it all was. I fully acknowledge the misappropriation of funds, power and patronage that this deal entailed. The particular irony of this situation is that these funds could have been allocated properly in an effort to actually improve the health of children within the city, which Pugh stated was a supposed priority.
“Big news” today makes a habit of confusing and leaving the reader often more hopeless and apathetic when navigating a political landscape. But, there is an odd sense of humor, as well as simplification, in this local scandal. Politician is outed for a financial scandal. Politician is ostracized. More meme-worthy information is uncovered. Politician is urged to resign. Politician insists they’ll be running for re-election, despite that they continue to caricature themselves as what is wrong and detestable within their constituency, spending exorbitant amounts of money along the way … oops, I mean… resuming her position after an unfortunate bout of pneumonia.