CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOX) – The story behind the sudden downfall of a longtime television personality was laid out before a St. Louis County judge Friday morning.
Actually, it was two sides of the same story. One side was told by former KMOV anchor Larry Conners and the other by his former bosses, who are being sued by Conners for defamation.
Conners’ argument is that he was heavily encouraged by management to join Facebook and other social media in an effort to connect with his viewers.
But KMOV and parent company Belo Corp. argue that Conners crossed a line and harmed KMOV’s and his own “credibility and integrity” when, in May, he posted about his personal problems with the Internal Revenue Service, claiming they were targeting him after an interview he conducted with President Barack Obama last year.
Conners wrote that shortly after he interviewed President Obama and his wife in April of 2012, the IRS “started hammering” 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.
After his comments garnered national attention on conservative blogs, Conners issued an on-air correction in which he said his troubles with the IRS predated his interview with President Obama. He was then placed on leave.
One week later, on May 22, KMOV President and General Manager Mark Pimentel announced in a statement that Conners had been fired after 27 years at the anchor desk.
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.
Conners has since claimed that his former employers launched a campaign to tear down his “unblemished reputation” and are conspiring to keep him from working anywhere else in St. Louis.
Conners signed a non-compete clause, preventing him from working on-air in St. Louis for a year after his departure. The clauses are common in the broadcast industry but Conners argues his should be void since he was terminated. A ruling on the matter was expected at a later date.
“Why would any human being want to keep someone from earning a living to support his/her family?” Conners asked in a post this summer.
Conners about his termination on the KMOX Mark Reardon Show: