ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — Longtime St. Louis anchorman Larry Conners was fired from KMOV Wednesday after comments he made on Facebook about the Internal Revenue Service.
Conners commented about the termination on the KMOX Mark Reardon Show. Listen below
Conners who hired attorney Merle Silverstein last week told Mark, “I was handed a statement, and said, ‘read it.'” He added, “Basically a lot of folks took it that I was backing down from my posting and that maybe I’d hidden information…I will say, I should have said, I had prior issues.”
During the eleven minute interview Conners explained his tax situation, and what he meant by his now infamous Facebook post. “I said on my Facebook page that it was just interesting, because of all of the stuff about the IRS over the last week and a half, and all I did…if you read my statement, I never said I believed they did it, I just had concerns and I just had questions…simply starting a forum of talk.”
“That’s all I was doing, was raising a question. Now the station has said it’s terminating me, for calls citing I have lost journalistic integrity and credibility because of that.
“Anyone who’s followed my career knows I can be tough on both sides and no one gets any slack. It was not intended to be anything other than what I truly stated.”
KMOV TV President & GM, Mark Pimentel, issued this statement.
“We regret to announce that Larry Conners is no longer a KMOV news reporter. Larry was a valued member of KMOV for a long time, and we will miss him.
For KMOV, there is no higher cause than unbiased, objective news reporting. It is what our viewers expect and it is what we work very hard to deliver. We can accept no less. Larry is certainly entitled to his opinion, but taking a personal political position on one of the Station’s Facebook pages creates an appearance of bias that is inconsistent with important journalistic standards. Larry’s departure has nothing to do with the particular position he took, but it does have to do with our belief that his actions made it impossible for him to report for KMOV on certain political matters going forward without at least an appearance of bias. Bringing you accurate and unbiased reporting is the reason we exist.”
Do you think they were looking for a reason to fire you?
Larry Conners has worked as a newsman in St. Louis since 1976, but in late April his career hit a professional setbacks. Conners was absent from the 10 p.m. news for several months as he recovered from shoulder surgery, but when he returned he came back to the 6 p.m. news.
After his comments a week ago KMOV removed Conners from their airwaves all together.
“I”m not going to get into speculation,” said Conners. He was answering Mark Reardon’s question ‘do you think they were looking for a reason to fire you?’
“I’m going to leave a lot of that to my attorney, but if you look at the facts. If you look at my age. If you look at what has happened since January when I was out on medical leave for two surgeries. One that could have involved a life-threatening staph infection after a surgery. And I came back and I no longer had the position I had when I left,” said Conners
Larry Conners told Mark Reardon he was often asked to post his personal perspectives on Facebook.
“So I decided to do this one, and it got 85,000 plus (hits) before they pulled my Facebook, shut off my access to Facebook, Twitter and my email.”
Mark asked, is it just that you don’t know how social media works?
“That’s kind of stupid, wouldn’t you think? I can make that claim, ‘Oh, I’m just so stupid, I didn’t know. please forgive me’ That’d be a very stupid statement for me,” said Conners.
“I have accolades from the General Manager, and the news director and the head of promotions. In fact the head of promotions said, ‘I need to have you school other people on how to generate more numbers for their Facebook.’
How it all began
Conners wrote last week that shortly after he interviewed President Obama and his wife in April of 2012, the IRS “started hammering” him. Conners did not explain how the IRS targeted him.
“At the time, I dismissed the ‘co-incidence’, but now, I have concerns … after revelations about the IRS targeting various groups and their members,” Conners wrote.
Conners issued a brief explanation of his post during the 6 p.m. news Tuesday night, stopping short of apologizing but explaining that his troubles with the IRS actually started years prior to his 2012 interview with President Obama.
The Facebook comments drew a rebuke from KMOV’s parent company Belo Corp.
“Any issue he has with the IRS are personal issues. They have nothing to do with our television station KMOV or him as a journalist,” Mike Valentine, vice president for content at Belo, told the website BuzzFeed. “As a news anchor, he owes a duty to our viewers to report in an unbiased manner. His Facebook post and his Twitter posts, as a result, were inappropriate. And we don’t condone personal posts that jeopardize the journalistic nature of our business. It’s really that simple.”
The end of an era?
Mark asked Conners if this marked the end of his career. Conners laughed, “Well, I guess that’s to be decided. It looks like now I’m a free agent.”