A complaint at Fox News led to the firing of ‘America’s Newsroom’ anchor Ed Henry

Your Thursday Poynter Report

July 2, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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Good morning, everyone. Just some updates before moving on to the rest of today’s newsletter. This is the final Poynter Report of the week. We will not publish Friday. In addition, I will be on vacation all next week. But the Poynter Report will carry on with the media news and analysis you need to know provided by the editorial team at Poynter. I will see you again on July 13. Have a great holiday and stay safe out there. Now, onto today’s newsletter.

A major firing at Fox News

Shocker from Fox News: Ed Henry, one of the network’s top anchors, was fired Wednesday because of, the network said, sexual harassment. In a memo to staff, Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace wrote, “On Thursday, June 25, we received a complaint about Ed Henry from a former employee’s attorney involving willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago.”

Scott and Wallace said as soon as they received the complaint, they removed Henry from the air and hired a third-party firm to investigate the matter.

“Based on the investigative findings,” they wrote, “Ed has been terminated.”

Details of what Henry was being accused of were not immediately known publicly.

Henry had been a co-anchor on “America’s Newsroom,” which airs from 9 a.m. to noon Eastern. Fox said it will use rotating anchors for now to replace Henry. Trace Gallagher has been filling in recently.

“America’s Newsroom” co-anchor Sandra Smith addressed the news on the air Wednesday, essentially repeating the Fox News memo.

Again, no details have emerged, but NPR’s David Folkenflik wrote, “NPR has learned that Henry was given more prestigious roles by the network despite a colleague’s warning to top executives that it could damage Fox’s efforts at reforming its workplace culture.”

Fox News isn’t all that far removed from a couple of high-profile sexual misconduct cases. The late Roger Ailes was forced out as Fox News chairman and CEO in 2016 after being accused of harassment by several women, including anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly.

Then, in 2017, Bill O’Reilly — who was arguably the network’s biggest star — was fired. The New York Times reported O’Reilly reached out-of-court settlements with at least six women — five for sexual harassment and another for verbal abuse — that totaled about $45 million.

This is not Henry’s first scandal. After leaving CNN for Fox News in 2011, Henry did not cover the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 after a tabloid story reported an extramarital relationship he had with a Las Vegas hostess. But after that, Henry worked his way back and eventually landed one of the better jobs at Fox News as a morning news co-anchor.

Folkenflik wrote, “That revival was conditioned on Henry’s completion of a sexual addiction rehabilitation program, according to several former colleagues. His career resurgence became a source of consternation for some co-workers. Several former colleagues tell NPR that over the years Henry proved aggressively flirtatious with younger, female Fox staffers. He sometimes sent graphic notes and even graphic images to them, according to these colleagues.”

Following up about Fox News

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

I did want to follow up on my lead item from Wednesday’s newsletter about Fox News’ Tucker Carlson setting a cable news viewership record in the second quarter by drawing 4.331 million viewers. I heard from several Poynter Report readers, including one who follows the TV news industry very closely, who pointed out some context that I should have provided.

While it is true that Carlson did set a cable news record, I should have noted that 4.331 million viewers, in the grand scheme of things, is not really that huge of a TV number. For example, ABC’s “World News Tonight” regularly draws more than twice that many viewers, often in the 10 million range. On a given night, the three network evening newscasts might draw a combined viewership of 25 million viewers.

The point being that cable television news, which also includes CNN and MSNBC, is still somewhat niche viewing. It’s easy to forget that when you immerse yourself in cable news consumption (ahem), but thanks to those readers who helped me pull back and realize that while Carlson’s numbers were big for Fox News and cable TV, they aren’t huge overall TV numbers.

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Trump weighs in

Speaking of the latest TV and cable news ratings, President Donald Trump weighed in, posting on Twitter, “Can’t believe how badly @CNN has done in the newly released TV ratings. They are so far below @FoxNews (thank you President Trump!) that you can barely find them. Fredo should be given a big pay cut! MSDNC also did poorly. As I have long said, Fake News does not pay!!!”

Again, it needs to be noted that there are, generally, two types of cable news viewers. Those who watch Fox News and those who do not. Those who do not often split their viewership between CNN and MSNBC. Therefore, a more accurate way to judge is by adding CNN and MSNBC viewership numbers. When you do that and compare them to Fox News, for the most part, the numbers are fairly even.

CNN Communications, however, did respond to Trump’s tweet with a sarcastic tweet of its own that said, “This is exhausting. But @PressSec says you can read and also consume intelligence verbally. So consider reading this or asking one of your staffers to read it aloud to you: Q2 of 2020 was the Most-Watched Quarter in CNN’s 40 Year History.”

It then linked to a press release that detailed the best viewership numbers it has had in its history.

Tweet of the day

And, finally, regarding Trump and tweets and cable news, Matthew Gertz of Media Matters for America tweeted this: “Some housekeeping: Trump had 67 live tweets in June, his highest total since January. Of those, 65 responded to Fox or Fox Business (the other two were CNBC and the infamous OAN tweet). Fox & Friends (14), America’s Newsroom (10), and The Ingraham Angle (7) led.”

L.A. Times food editor steps away

Los Angeles Times food editor Peter Meehan announced on Twitter Wednesday that he is leaving the paper. He was cryptic in his announcement, although he referenced another Twitter thread from a freelance food writer who made accusations of inappropriate workplace behavior.

Meehan tweeted, in part, “Tweets on Monday alleged a number of things I don’t think are true, but they also compelled my staff to speak out. In my tunnel-vision commitment to making the best thing we could, I lost sight of people and their feelings.”

Meehan’s tweet went on to offer “non-PR apologies” to those he worked with, adding, “I’m sorry to everybody that I’ve let down directly or indirectly and the last I’ve ever wanted to be is some sort of institutionalized problem.”

The tweet thread from Monday that Meehan referenced said, among other things, “There have been multiple HR complaints about Peter Meehan @latimes, but it’s hard to believe any were investigated since I have been able to compile a mountain of testimonies in just a couple days from people who have worked with him and known him over the past decade.”

Keeping up with Jones

(Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

One day after his old TV partner landed a new gig at ESPN, Bomani Jones signed a multiyear contract extension with the network. Jones will continue hosting his podcast, “The Right Time with Bomani Jones,” twice a week. In addition, ESPN said he will play a significant role on “Highly Questionable” with main host Dan Le Batard, appearing three to four days a week. He also will be seen regularly on “SportsCenter,” “Get Up,” “Outside the Lines,” “Around the Horn” and other shows.

Jones was the former co-host of “High Noon” with Pablo Torre, but that show was canceled earlier this year. On Tuesday, Torre was named the new host of the “ESPN Daily” podcast.

“High Noon” should have worked because Jones and Torre are so smart and talented and interesting. But odd time slots (an hour starting at noon Eastern and then it was moved to a half-hour at 4 p.m. Eastern) probably didn’t help. Anyway, it’s good to see ESPN continuing to commit to these two outstanding talents.

Pulitzer Prize winner dies

John Woestendiek, a longtime Philadelphia Inquirer journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that helped exonerate a man wrongly convicted of murder, died last week from a number of health issues complicated by a stroke. He was 66.

Woestendiek won a Pulitzer in 1987 for a series of stories (the Inquirer reposted the main story here in 2009 — give it a look) about the teenage son of a motorcycle club member convicted of murder. Woestendiek’s work helped lead to a new trial and the ultimate freeing of the teenager.

In a story written by the Inquirer’s Bonnie L. Cook, Daniel Rubin, senior editor for investigations at the Inquirer, said, “It was the most admirable piece of reporting I’d ever read. There was nothing showy about John — the opposite, really. He was rumpled, soft-spoken, self-effacing.”

Woestendiek went on to become a metro columnist at the Inquirer before leaving the paper in 2000. He went on to work at The Baltimore Sun and, after retiring from newspapers, wrote a blog and two books about dogs. He was writing his dog blog as recently as last month.

Hot type

Correction: A quote in the item about Philadelphia Inquirer journalist John Woestendiek has been edited to show it was said by Daniel Rubin. Another name was originally listed. I regret the error.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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