Matt Dougherty, a former WINK reporter who is suing the Fort Myers/Naples, Fla., CBS affiliate for breach of contract, is now being told by parent company Fort Myers Broadcasting Co. he can’t use WINK footage in his reel or an upcoming documentary on his dismissal.
According to Dougherty’s lawyer, FMB has threatened Dougherty with defamation in an attempt to stop production of his Code of Ethics documentary. A trailer for the documentary lives on a website containing links to Dougherty’s past work, some of which is from WINK.
“This video, in conjunction with the weblinks below it equates to your client stating that FMB is not ethical and asked him to participate in a cover-up and then firing him to cover up their own misconduct,” reads the letter from FMB.
“It is impossible for WINK to claim defamation when it is a public figure unless there is malice here, which there is not,” said Dougherty’s attorney Susan Chana Lask. “It is ironic that WINK NEWS, licensed by the FCC to broadcast the truth, will threaten Mr. Dougherty with a lawsuit to prevent him from documenting the truth about a public issue. WINK’s foolish threat is illegal under Florida’s broad Anti-Slapp law that protects exactly the free speech Mr. Dougherty is exercising through his documentary.
This just shows how retaliatory and vindictive they are,” Lask said.
Dougherty was fired in July. He’d been reporting on a man who bought a storage locker and found hundreds of boxes of a local doctor’s medical records inside. Dougherty claims the doctor involved is a friend of WINK news director Russ Kilgore. Dougherty’s suit maintains Kilgore killed the story an hour before it was scheduled to air, even though, Lask says, the station promoted it.
TVSpy reached out to WINK for comment. We have not heard back as of this posting.