KTVU anchor Frank Somerville is off the air once again, this time after a disagreement over the reporting of the Gabby Petito homicide case.
Somerville has reportedly been suspended indefinitely by the Fox owned station because he wanted to question the level of media coverage devoted to the story. SFGate said news director Amber Eikel told Somerville his addition to a story about the Petito case linking it to domestic violence before any suspects were convicted was “inappropriate” and that she questioned Somerville’s news judgement.
Petito’s body was discovered after being reported missing while on a trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie. The FBI has issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie.
Sources told the Mercury News that Somerville wanted to add a tag to the story talking about the disparity between how the media covers tragedies involving young white women as opposed to women of color. Late journalist and broadcaster Gwen Ifill described the approach as the “missing white woman syndrome,” where the media focuses on missing white females without providing equal coverage for similar cases of missing women of color.
Somerville, who is the adoptive father of a Black daughter, was told he couldn’t add a short sidebar showing that Black women in America experience higher rates of domestic violence than white women.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Eikel “then learned that a shortened version of Somerville’s verbal ‘tag’ remained in a subsequent newscast’s script” despite being told to remove it.
The next day, Somerville was told he was being suspended. This comes just six weeks after he came back from an extended absence after a quick exit from a show where he struggled to read the prompter and appeared to be slurring his words.
The Mercury News said the incident “will undoubtedly trigger speculation about his future with the station. He’s one of the highest paid anchors in the Bay Area, but his contract is up in March.”
TVSpy asked Fox for comment, but hasn’t heard back.