Herenton claims groups are trying to run him out - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Nick Kenney

Herenton claims groups are trying to run him out

Mayor Herenton at Thursday's press briefing. Mayor Herenton at Thursday's press briefing.

At a press briefing Thursday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton alleged the justice system, the media, and the Memphis business community are trying to run him out of office by any means necessary.

For nearly an hour, Herenton sat with members of the local media, talking about a wide range of subjects, including Joseph Lee, the former MLGW president he appointed.  A federal indictment against Lee, dismissed earlier this week, charged he let former Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford, Senior's utility bills slide in exchange for council influence. 

Thursday, Herenton said the indictment against Lee was really about him.

"Joseph Lee was a victim," Herenton said.  "It was never about Joseph Lee.  It has always been about Willie Herenton.  Anyone around Mayor Herenton is subject to an investigation."

Herenton said he is not personally involved in any alleged investigation, but acknowledged the FBI requested information about nine city contracts.

Herenton said he has signed more than 13,000 contracts during his career as mayor, and nine the FBI asked about involve African American businesses.  That's evidence, the mayor said, that the justice system operates under a dual system based on race.

"I have more white friends that are business leaders and who donate to my campaign, but nobody asks me about my white friends, and they donate to my campaign," Herenton said. "Don't you find that ironic?"

Without being specific, Herenton told reporters that a group of influential business leaders conspired to convince the justice department that "the mayor's gotta go."

"It's all about getting Willie Herenton," he said, "and it's not over."

Herenton also addressed his March letter to Memphis Chief Administrative Office Keith McGee, where he stated his plans to retire on July 31.  Thursday, Herenton told reporters he would serve his full four-year term, and said he is considering running for a sixth term in office.

"I said I wasn't going to run again," Herenton said. "I don't know. If people want you out this bad that they'd do anything, maybe I'm doing something right."

You can watch the complete briefing in the video player on this page.

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