ABC News Anchor in Washington Fired Over Alleged Partisan Comments and Fight With News Director

This weekend WJLA-TV announced that it had fired veteran anchorman Doug McKelway for a verbal confrontation this summer with the station’s news director. McKelway is a longtime journalist in the Capitol and his termination raised questions about the limits on fair commentary for anchors in political coverage.

In a brief story on environmentalists protesting the influence of the oil industry in Congress, McKelway referred to the small demonstration as “largely representing far-left environmental groups.” He went on to note that such protests “may be a risky strategy because the one man who has more campaign contributions from BP than anybody else in history is now sitting in the Oval Office, President Barack Obama, who accepted $77,051 in campaign contributions from BP.” It is, in my view, clearly wrong to suggest that the protesters were “far left” since many environmentalists are appalled with the level of influence of the industry in Congress and the Administration. The second comment, however, was fair game in my view and has been noted by other journalists in covering such stories — though it has been challenged on the grounds that it came from employees as opposed to company itself.

The second segment is more problematic. He added in a later piece that the Senate was unlikely to pass “cap-and-trade” legislation this year, because “the Democrats are looking at the potential for huge losses in Congress come the midterm elections. And the last thing they want to do is propose a huge escalation in your electric bill, your utility bill, before then.” That seems well over the line for reporting as opposed to commentary. It is the very talking point line put out by conservative advocates to justify more drilling and less regulation. It is greatly disputed and should not have been reported as a fact. However, the question is whether it justified termination.

That coverage led to a confrontation with ABC7’s news director and general manager, Bill Lord. In a letter to McKelway this week where McKelway was accused of insubordination and misconduct. It was the argument with Lord that was the direct justification for the termination decision.

McKelway has accused local news of having a liberal and pro-democratic tilt in the past. He comes from a long line of Washington journalists in his family. He also attracted criticism in 2009 when he was accused of threatening to punch a gay blogger over his practice of “outing” politicians who are in the closet.

McKelway is well known in my area not just as a newsman but as a musician. My family and I have enjoyed his performances with a local blue grass band that plays at restaurants and other venues. He is a very talented banjo player. It is a sad way to end a long career at the station, but McKelway is reportedly working on a book and could still find another venue as a journalist or commentator.

Source: Washington Post

131 thoughts on “ABC News Anchor in Washington Fired Over Alleged Partisan Comments and Fight With News Director

  1. @ Mr. Tony C.~

    I was responding to a Tootie remark, all above the line was authored by her. Still, you are waaaaaay further left of center than myself sir……

  2. Tony C.~
    “I think if everybody in the country could know where every dime a politician received from the time they took office until 10 years after they left it, and be confident that information was real and accurate, WITHOUT deception, our political landscape would be entirely different.”
    ————————————————-
    I don’t disagree with this…politicians are public servants and actually….isn’t this already on the books? And as regarding corporations…I wouldn’t be appalled at all. I am appalled only that they are allowed to cause so much harm as they do to people. All over the world….

  3. @Woosty: Once a politician leaves office they are not a public servant. They can immediately go to work for the corporations they helped while in office, and earn a million dollars a year with zero responsibility.

    While in office they do have to disclose their income, but it is seldom investigated or verified and they have a culture of looking the other way even for the opposition party, and the “ethics” committee is almost never more than a slap on the wrist. It is senators judging senators, and representatives judging reps, and if you think that is a formula for justice, you don’t understand their culture of protecting each other from scrutiny. We can’t even get Bush and Cheney prosecuted for the war crimes they still boast about.

    If you want a peek behind the curtain, just recent news should tell you campaign cash is spent like their own money. A Democrat hires his mistress as a videographer, a Republican pays off the husband of the woman he bedded by hiring an 18 year old kid at an exorbitant salary to be a “political consultant.” Hillary stays in $4000/night hotel suites during her campaign, and her senior staff gets the same treatment with different suites. They eat $400/plate dinners with a few $300 bottles of wine, all on the campaign tab.

    The numbers reported aren’t real, or verifiable, because the people in charge of verifying them are biased, they have no interest in exposing the truth. Sometimes the truth comes out and they have to make a show of it, but when is the last time the Senate censured a colleague without a hard-won news story about the colleague’s corruption appearing first? Trick question, the answer is NEVER.

  4. Tony C.

    I find your insights very interesting and wonder if there is a difference between requiring government transparency and corporate transparency.

    It would seem to me that the first could be a matter of law, but the second couldn’t. Of course deception in either is the problem.

    In the Obama administration, former lobbyists were not to be hired, and officials leaving were not to practice lobbying for 3 years. I take it you think this is not long enough?

    As far as coprorations go, the problems seem to have been with auditors and board of directors not doing their job.

    Like Woosty, I think you should write a book, if you are not constrained by contracts you have signed.

  5. @Buckeye, Woosty:

    I am not a reporter, I am currently a research scientist at a university, I was formerly a contract business consultant. In that former capacity I was frequently (meaning about weekly) at lunch and in meetings with corporate officers of one stripe or another, sometimes the CEO but usually VPs or people at the level of major division manager. For about three years I actually served as a major division manager of a corporation, that due to my efforts went public (sales from my division increased tenfold in three years, but that is what I was there to do, exploit an unusual market situation).

    Due to the nature of my services I had access to their books, taxes, and at least the legal financial shenanigans. I do not know what they did with their personal money. Unless the corporations were very small (and several were just privately held), I typically did have non-disclosure agreements built into my contracts.

    Of course, some of this should be obvious to you all. Do you think failed Congressman are really such whiz-bang negotiators that they deserve multi-million dollar a year salaries as lobbyists? Don’t you think that if they were that good, they could have gotten their way when they were IN office? No.

    This is how the vampire rich legally buy congressional votes for tax breaks and exemptions, union busting, government contracts and lax (or nonexistent) oversight. Congressmen that become lobbyists are just proof-by-example that the corporations will financially reward politicians that served their interests. They aren’t hired to do a job, they are hired to show off their winnings and by that demonstration turn others to the dark side.

    Others become Ivy league professors, or corporate funded think-tankers, or billionaires (like the Koch brothers) fund their wacko movements (see Dick Army), or stupid projects (see the Saudi funding of GW Bush’s business debacles while his daddy was President. And note that GW walked away with millions from these failed businesses, and for the Saudis, this is just one of the many things they did to curry favor with politicians, because a hundred million in perfectly legal but hilariously stupid investments is not a big price to pay with a hundred billion on the line.

    You will never record or hear a quid pro quo, because 99% of them are not that stupid. Unlike the American people, the vampire rich won’t fall for rhetoric, they wait for ACTION, and they will pay a fair price when ACTION is taken on their behalf, or consider it a debt they must pay in order to keep other politicians on the line. The politicians are the same. To prove you are serious: spend $50K on their retired buddy the lobbyist. Max out on a few campaign contributions. If you are rich enough to do that, you can get an audience. If you aren’t — They will eat lunch with somebody that is, because sitting politicians have the responsibility in this system of making sure *somebody* gets paid before anything gets passed, otherwise the pay to play system might break down before they get their share.

    The only exceptions are when they are at political risk; then they are given a pass to leave the reservation if necessary. Other than that, there are no contracts to sign or pledges to make, it is just daily examples that build an implicit understanding that the vampire rich will do their best to ruin you if you cross them, and will make sure you are living the good life if you serve them.

  6. @Buckeye: Boards of Directors do not do their job for the same reason. They are frequently CEO’s themselves, and if they are sucking profits out of their company to the tune of millions in compensation they don’t actually deserve, why would they object to you doing the same? That can only lead to heartbreak and empty wallets.

    Just enjoy your free retreat to New Zealand with our flown in 5 star chef, and your plus one (or we can provide a plus one that meets your specifications, since prostitution is legal in New Zealand), and the last two hours of the last day rubber-stamp a few corporate resolutions for us. It is all on the stockholder’s tab, and we will do the same for you when you need it.

  7. @Woosty, Buckeye:

    To wit: Here is an article on how the Federal Elections Committee resolves criminal campaign finance activity:
    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/09/23/christine_o_donnell_law/index.html

    Basically the rules are incredibly vague, and even if somebody does break them, they try to resolve the issue behind the scenes, and will almost never file any criminal charges. Christine O’Donnell is paying her mother from her campaign funds, and paying her rent and buying her groceries. Openly. Against the Law. And what will the FEC do? “Try to resolve the situation.”

    That is code for “Wait until you stop asking us about it.”

  8. Tony C,
    Your posts have been excellent and highly informative. In relatively few words you diagnose the ills that contaminate our political system and are turning us into a Third world Nation. Please keep up the good work, you’ve become a real asset to this blog.

  9. of course like your website however you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the reality on the other hand I’ll certainly come back again.

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