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Barry Says Reporters Exploiting Him, Will Publish Autobiography In June

Only Marion Barry can tell Marion Barry's story.
WAMU/Jared Angle
Only Marion Barry can tell Marion Barry's story.

For better or for worse, Marion Barry is a D.C. legend. But when it comes to who gets to tell his story, Barry is clear on one point — it should be Marion Barry.

Speaking on The Kojo Nnamdi Show today, Barry criticized journalists Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe, saying that they exploited him and unfairly covered his tenure in Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C., a book on D.C. history and politics that the pair published two decades ago this month.

"Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe are trying to exploit me. I'm tired of being exploited. The citizens are tired of being exploited by them," said Barry. "That book is so full of misinformation it's amazing."

Sherwood covers D.C. politics for NBC Washington and serves as a guest analyst on WAMU's The Politics Hour, while Jaffe serves as national editor at the Washingtonian. The book, published after Barry's 1990 arrest for drug possession, has developed a cult following, with used copies selling for over $100 on eBay and the city's public library system's 13 available copies perpetually on hold.

The two journalists released an updated Dream City ebook this month.

The book is being adapted for an HBO movie, a fact that has angered Barry. Speaking today, he raised the issue of race in their coverage of his four terms as mayor.

"You have Dream City, Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe, two white people, exploiting black people and I'm not going to be a party to it," said Barry. The movie is set to be directed by Spike Lee.

He also criticized another book about him, The Last of the Black Emperors. "It's worse than Dream City, he said. The book was written by Jonetta Rose Barras, who is currently a columnist with The Washington Post and is black.

So who can tell Barry's story? He can. He said today that his autobiography — Mayor For Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. — will be published on June 17.

"I have a wonderful story, I have overcome so many hardships," he said. "My book is truthful, it's educational and it's going to be an inspiration to a lot of people, mostly black people."

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