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. Interesting article in The Boston Globe today:

    Peretz, Thomas, and the Middle East double standard
    By Matthew Duss
    September 22, 2010

    LAST JUNE, veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas was fired for telling Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine.’’ While many were deeply and rightly offended by Thomas’s remarks, it was a sad end to a storied journalism career.

    Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post suggested that if “Thomas had said the opposite thing about the Palestinians, she’d still have her job.’’ Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg disagreed. “If you gave this long diatribe about [how] the Palestinians don’t exist, which is sort of the equivalent argument, I don’t think you’re going to last that long in the mainstream press.’’

    But recent events allow us to test Goldberg’s hypothesis. Martin Peretz, the longtime owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, mused on his blog, The Spine, whether Muslim Americans “are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.’’

    Coming under criticism, Peretz backtracked. “I wrote that,’’ he acknowledged, “but I do not believe that.’’ However, Peretz reiterated his equally offensive claim that “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,’’ which he called “a statement of fact, not value.’’ Nor did he apologize for writing that the Palestinians are “a fictional people.’’

    Over the years, Peretz has regularly denied the existence of Palestinians as a real people with national claims worth acknowledging. For example, he has written:

    ■ “The defeat of the Arabs of Palestine and the five warrior Arab states in 1948, 1967 and 1973 made a fictional people into a political force. We do not yet know whether this political force will mature into a real people. Or nation. My bet is ‘no.’ ’’

    ■ “The Palestinians may not be the Palestinian nation. But they are who they are. It is not Washington that makes them fantasists.’’

    ■ “Only if you are ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ can you believe that these people [the Palestinians] are a ‘nation.’ ’’

    Peretz’s writing career has essentially been a series of, to quote Goldberg, “long diatribe[s] about how the Palestinians don’t exist.’’ Yet he continues to receive a special dispensation for these libels, while Thomas received public condemnation and a pink slip for her single denial of Jewish national claims.

    What can explain this? Certainly some of it has to do with money and power. As editor-in-chief of a prominent political magazine, Peretz maintains relationships with, and cuts checks to, a number of writers, most of whom would like to be paid by him again, and are therefore inclined to hold their fire (and, one assumes, their noses) as they continue to write for him. Indeed, former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan and Slate’s Jack Shafer have criticized Peretz for his recent remarks but have also suggested that his stewardship of the magazine should mitigate his years of open bigotry. It’s interesting that none of Helen Thomas’s own path-breaking accomplishments were allowed to distract from her defenestration.

  2. @Woosty: Do you understand that I am a left-winger, liberal, and on many points a socialist, and my AGENDA is complete and open books, complete access to all information, a complete minimization of all “secret” documents in the US Government, and total transparency in every meeting?

    How, exactly, does that lead to “deception”?

    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.

    The same goes for corporate officers and corporate money. I’ve been a contractor with access to books of about eight major coporations, and if you knew the ways they (legally) deceive their employees, shareholders, suppliers and investors, you would be appalled. Some of these accounting shenanigans and payroll leeches SHOULD be illegal.

    The same goes for churches.

    At least for the lefties like ME, our agenda is ANTI-deception, it requires complete and verifiable truth and transparency by all non-private citizens. That includes politicians, the leaders and paid officers charitable organizations, and between all corporate officers with any fiduciary responsibility and their investors. We can’t get there by deception.

  3. Tootie 1, September 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    ABC, NBC, and CBS have lied about Republicans, Christians, and conservatives for over half a century. They don’t lie overtly of course, instead, they deceive the public with editing and word games. Left wingers can achieve their agenda only by deception and dishonesty.

    For decades they portrayed the right as evil and the left as good. They did it by unflattering camera shots and photo,s and hacked-up sound bites by right wingers taken out of context. And they contrasted that to glowing depictions of left wingers who cared for the poor and downtrodden (which is a lie).
    Tootie thank you, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out why the hatred, why the vitriole, why the separation….you (and maybe lots of Republican types, that I don’t know…) are incredibly angry and pissed off at people that YOU PERCEIVE are behaving badly when in fact, they are most probably just finally allowing themselves to behave as you do…wow. (and thank God for the ones that don’t…)

    remember that old saying….when you point a finger at someone, three more are pointing right back at you…

    in any event, thank you

  4. Hubris,

    You being a foreigner and all I’d like to recommend a book to you … it’s easy to read and easy to understand and it might help you come to grips with, or at least gain a better understanding of, the Constitution and thus this blog which is populated by many Americans.

    “Original Meanings – Politics and Ideas In The Making Of The Constitution” by Jack N Rakove (It won the Pulitzer Prize (History) in 1997)

    I don’t know if it’s available in your native tongue, you being a foreigner and all, but try it in English.

  5. Hubris
    1, September 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm
    Bill of rights has nothing to do with where the power comes from. It was a compromise to further expand on the rights of citizens.


    Nice try but no cigar … well, 1/2 a cigar. But not to worry … as you stated, you are from a foreign country and not expected to grasp everything … however, if contemplating applying for citizenship here … start studying … there are also tutors …

  6. AY,

    I would never entertain the thought of chopping off Buddha’s pudgy head! Why…I’d miss seeing that great grin grin here at the Turley blog.

    As far as the teaching of Civics goes: It may well be that some schools have stopped teaching the subject because students may not be tested on the subject. Of course, this is a big country with many thousands of different school districts that have different educational requirements.

    Don’t get me started on a discussion of the current national craze to test kids to death–and definitely not on a discussion of giving merit pay to teachers whose students do well on standardized tests.

  7. NO what is that? I am from a foreign country and english is not my native language.

    I would be most appreciative if you would explain.

    thank you in advance.

  8. Mike S.,

    Good to see you around. Did you see what happened to the Michigan State FB Coach on Saturday night? He had a heart attack not too long after they finally beat Notre Dame… if every coach has a heart attack after they beat ND, I think that might be divine intervention…..

  9. “Mike Spindell:
    I have no where said or implied that I am a Christian or even religious. Just because I agree with Tootie doesn’t mean I am necessarily a Christian”

    This is true, however, Tootie does have a quite specific agenda and your agreement with her certainly would imply a Christian connection. By the way you have the most apt screen name I’ve seen from any poster.

  10. Hubris,

    You truly live up to your name. Thank you for proving you are incapable of learning. My argument is based on fact and law. Yours is based on opinion, wrong opinion at that. You are free to be as wrong as you wish. The Bill of Rights is the legal origin of your rights as a citizen whether you believe it or not. That compromises where made to include the possibility of post ratification amendments pertaining to rights does not change the fact that the Bill of Rights is a component of the Constitution made by legitimate Constitutional amendment. That is was passed after ratification doesn’t lessen its authority and shows your complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Massachusetts Compromise and the legal fact that the Constitution is considered a complete document as integrated with the Amendments.

    Truly, your ignorance is astounding.

  11. Bill of rights has nothing to do with where the power comes from. It was a compromise to further expand on the rights of citizens.

    But thanks for the “high school civics” lesson.

  12. Buddha,

    Before Ms. Elaine M. chops your head off, schools don’t teach anything other than how to pass standardized testing. So Civics which was required when we were going to school has not been taught as thoroughly as it should be…Don’t forget this, unfortunately Texas sets the standards for school textbooks used…..Now that scary…..Bush touched this state too…..

  13. Hubris,

    Your lack of understand aside, rights as a citizen are delineated by the same document that delineates the powers and responsibilities of the three branches of government, the Constitution, and those rights are delineated as informed by the Declaration of Independence to further constrain government in accordance with the intent of the Founding Fathers. Rights and governmental powers are both creations in law based on the Constitution – read that carefully – they come from the same source, not one from the other. The part you are missing (and/or consistently misinterpreting) are commonly called The Bill of Rights – otherwise known as the first ten amendments of the Constitution.

    That’s basic high school civics.

  14. Mike Spindell:

    I have no where said or implied that I am a Christian or even religious. Just because I agree with Tootie doesn’t mean I am necessarily a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Jainist, etc.

  15. “That is what the Constitution does: it grants rights to citizens and reserves powers for government.”

    I wasn’t aware the Constitution granted us rights, I must have missed something somewhere. I was under the impression the Constitution protected our rights by delimiting the power of government.

    So all are rights stem from government?

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