TMZ post with the headline that caused an uproar
TMZ screenshot

On the day of Marion Barry’s death, TMZ caused an uproar after posting its headline “Crack Mayor Dead at 78.” Those who were familiar with Barry’s accomplishments slammed TMZ as posting a sensationalized headline, and even started a petition to have the headline changed.

In an interview with My Fox DC in Washington, D.C., Harry Levin, TMZ’s creator, explained why he used the headline. “A lot of people don’t know Mayor Barry for anything other than an incident that took him beyond the borders of D.C. and the borders of the civil rights movement as well, and it became a really big news story. If you ask people in Missouri or California, most people are going to say that.”

Levin also explained that he knows a lot of people will be upset about the headline. “The fact is that a lot of people think of Mayor Barry when they think of that video—that’s what kind of triggers it all, and it’s almost like Richard Nixon. When you think Richard Nixon, you think Watergate. So there’s an incident that defines him, but he was president of the United States, he did many other things as well, but you think Watergate, and that’s what went into our thinking when we posted the headline,” Levin stated.

So far the petition has more than 17,000 signatures, but it may have been a futile effort on behalf of the petition’s organizers. When the reporter asked Levin if he had plans to change the headline, his answer was straight and to the point:

"No,” Levin stated.