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L.A. mayor is dating local newscaster

Villaraigosa has been seeing Lu Parker of KTLA Channel 5 since March. An affair with another newscaster broke up his marriage two years ago.

June 02, 2009|Phil Willon

A Los Angeles television reporter is dating Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, about two years after his extramarital affair with another local newscaster led to the breakup of his 20-year marriage.

KTLA-TV Channel 5 reporter Lu Parker, a former Miss U.S.A., has been dating Villaraigosa since March, station officials confirmed Monday. On Sunday, while working as a weekend anchor, Parker announced a story about the likelihood of Villaraigosa running for governor in 2010.

"Now that we're aware of the relationship, she will no longer be covering local politics," said KTLA-TV news director Jason Ball, who defended the journalist's ethics but declined to elaborate. "I have the utmost faith in Lu Parker's abilities."

The mayor's spokesman, Matt Szabo, said he would not comment on Villaraigosa's personal life.

Villaraigosa is separated from his wife, Corina. Their divorce is not yet final.

Indications of the relationship were made public early Monday on the NBC Channel 4 L.A. news website, which posted a story about Villaraigosa and Parker browsing in a Larchmont bookstore over the weekend.

The report included a snapshot of the two inside Chevalier's bookstore with the mayor casually dressed, wearing shades and having a laugh.

"Witnesses say they did not hold hands or kiss, but appeared very chummy," the NBC Channel 4 story said. "Parker was seen touching the mayor's chest and stomach while they spoke. She was also seen looking at a book about Kenya and overheard saying to Villaraigosa, 'We should buy it for our trip.' "

Villaraigosa's spokesman said the mayor has no official overseas trip planned.

Parker did not respond to requests for comment.

Station officials said she had a limited number of interviews with Villaraigosa while working as a reporter in October and November.

"There is no concern as to the ethics whatsoever," said Don Corsini, general manager of KTLA-TV, which like The Times is owned by Tribune Co. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a personal matter."

Parker's own website contains a video clip of her interviewing Villaraigosa on election night in November about President Obama's election. Her site also includes a photograph of her interviewing Villaraigosa for another story.

During KTLA-TV's 6:30 p.m. newscast Sunday, Parker read a story about doubts raised about Villaraigosa's potential bid for governor.

Villaraigosa's affair with Telemundo KVEA-TV Channel 52 reporter and anchor Mirthala Salinas in 2007 also raised a conflict-of-interest question and created a firestorm of publicity that tainted his first term in office.

During his successful campaign for reelection this year, Villaraigosa continually apologized for the affair.

Salinas, who as a political reporter had covered such mayoral initiatives as his effort to gain control of the Los Angeles Unified School District, later quit after she was suspended for two months and reassigned by Telemundo to the station's Riverside bureau.

Sue Otto, who owns Chevalier's Books, told The Times that Villaraigosa and Parker were looking over books displayed outside the store before walking in together Sunday.

"He's been in before, but I didn't recognize her," Otto said.

When the pair walked in, authors Elizabeth Ford and Daniela Drake were signing copies of their new book, "Smart Girls Marry Money: How Women Have Been Duped Into the Romantic Dream -- and How They're Paying For It." The two authors invited the mayor and Parker over, Otto said.

"They gave her a copy," Otto said.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

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