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Popular TV program invites mayoral candidates to appear on show — except John Barros

His campaign says that’s not fair to voters.

John Barros was not invited to join other Boston mayoral candidates on the popular local political program "On The Record," in what his supporters say is becoming an unfair pattern.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The popular local political program “On the Record” has invited Boston’s major mayoral candidates to appear on the show in the lead-up to the Sept. 14 preliminary election.

All, that is, except John Barros.

The city’s former chief of economic development, the only Black man in the race, also was not invited to the “first Boston mayoral forum for women of color candidates” on Wednesday evening. And he was recently left out of a graphic on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” that showed the four female candidates for Boston mayor.

With less than a month before voters head to the polls, Barros supporters say they are seeing an unfair pattern emerging. Despite early polls showing Barros in single digits and trailing his competitors, they contend that the dynamics in the race have changed in the past few weeks and that nothing is assured with so many undecided voters.

“Clearly our media outlets should be making sure all the candidates appear so they have a full picture of all of the different choices [of candidates],” said Barros, a 2013 mayoral candidate, former School Committee member and former executive director of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, which revitalized a section of Dorchester. “So, ‘OTR’ should definitely be making sure that we’re all on.”


Conan Harris, one of Barros’s staunchest supporters, was more blunt about the decision by “On the Record,” which airs on Sundays on WCVB-TV, Channel 5.

“It’s the erasure of Black men, our voice, and our representation,” said Harris, who served with Barros in the administration of former mayor Martin J. Walsh. “John represents a subset of a population. He is a Black man in this race running for mayor. He has the credentials, the resume, and the bandwidth to be included.”

Mike Cole, news producer for “OTR,” acknowledged in an interview that Barros was not invited to appear on the show. But Cole said he is leaving the door open for a future Barros appearance on the show if the candidate’s poll numbers improve or the campaign surges.


“I want to have John on the show if John’s a factor. I don’t want to have John on the show if ... we’re doing it because he’s on the ballot,” Cole said. “We could devote the time to other issues in the race that might be more significant than his candidacy, if he’s not connecting with voters at this point.”

Barros was featured on “OTR” for about a half-hour shortly after he announced his bid for mayor in March, Cole said. But with the mayoral contest “coming down to the finish line,” Cole said the program has decided to focus on the other candidates for now.

To be sure, Barros has appeared at more than three dozen mayoral forums since his campaign started, most of them virtual. He attended Monday’s mayoral forum on food access and is among the five major candidates invited to a special live mayoral debate on Sept. 9 that is hosted by WBUR, WCVB, The Boston Globe, and UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. (The event will be moderated by Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing and Globe columnist Adrian Walker, and will be live on 90.9 FM. It will also be livestreamed.)

But the recent developments involving “OTR” and other incidents of Barros being left out are “disturbing,” especially this late in the race, Harris said.


“Everybody gets to be included until the electorate says that we are moving in a different direction,” Harris added.

Harris argued that the polls, which Cole referenced, were a snapshot of an earlier time in the race, and they only reflect a subset of the voting population.

“There’s a [good] deal of people that’s missing from these polls,’' he said. “Their voice matters.”

Barros said he’s taking his message directly to voters on whatever platforms that lead him to them. And he questioned Cole’s rationale for not inviting him to the program at this point. Barros — the only major candidate who was not in political office before announcing a mayoral bid — raised more than $590,000 since launching his campaign, according to state data. He said his campaign has “the highest percentage of local donors” among his competitors.

“Typically those things make me a major candidate. I’m not sure what he thinks the thresholds are other than that,’' Barros added.

Barros also was not invited to Wednesday’s “Where We Stand” forum that is being organized by We, Ceremony, a digital platform that uses storytelling to empower and celebrate women of color.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey, and City Councilors Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi George, and Andrea Campbell are all invited. Representative Ayanna Pressley, who is married to Harris, was one of the speakers.

Iliana Panameño, a cofounder of We, Ceremony, said in an e-mail that an invitation “was not extended to John Barros because of our purpose to center the stories of women of color.”


“Historically, no other group has been more marginalized than women of color, and our focus on Wednesday night is to create a space where our voices are elevated and heard,” Panameño said in response to a Globe question.

Harris said that while he supports the group’s focus, “women are not the only people who care about women and the issues of concern for women,” he said. “John was raised by a mother, he has a daughter, he has a wife and a grandmother. All of them shaped and formed his perspective on life.”

Barros and Harris have been hosting a series of conversations featuring Black men discussing their concerns about the mayor’s race and other issues in the city. The men participating in the “Black and Brown Men’s Roundtable” have contended they feel left out and ignored in the mayoral campaign.

“Being discriminated against, being left out, being forgotten — it’s nothing new to Black men or Black people,” Harris said.

A pair of Barros’s competitors weighed in on the matter on Wednesday on Twitter. Wu, who was a former council president, wrote on Twitter “@JohnFBarros’ voice matters & every candidate in this historic field should get airtime.”

Janey, who was council president before becoming acting mayor, also wrote on Twitter: “This historic field, and every single candidate within, is a testament to how great our city is and how far we’ve come. @JohnFBarros deserves to have his voice heard.”


Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.