TV Station Axes Reporter Who (Sort of Misleadingly) Claimed the IRS Was After Him

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 22 2013 5:39 PM

TV Station Axes Reporter Who (Sort of Misleadingly) Claimed the IRS Was After Him

conners
Now-former KMOV reporter Larry Conners.

KMOV

In conservative media, St. Louis TV reporter Larry Conners was the first visible victim of President Obama's Chicago-style use of the IRS to harass conservatives. That, at least, was the impression Conners gave at first. In 2012, Conners got a White House sit-down with Obama and asked some fair, cheeky questions about the president's conspicuous consumption. When the IRS scandal broke, Conners updated his Facebook page with a fearful post about how his interview may have led to harassment from the taxman.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Shortly after I did my April 2012 interview with President Obama, my wife, friends and some viewers suggested that I might need to watch out for the IRS.
I don’t accept “conspiracy theories”, but I do know that almost immediately after the interview, the IRS started hammering me.
At the time, I dismissed the “co-incidence”, but now, I have concerns … after revelations about the IRS targeting various groups and their members...
Advertisement

That post has since been taken down, after it circulated widely (and was copied widely) online. His station had pushed back; Conners had been taken off the air. Today, he was let go, and the station explained why.

Larry’s departure has nothing to do with the particular position he took, but it does have to do with our belief that his actions made it impossible for him to report for KMOV on certain political matters going forward without at least an appearance of bias.

Now, I've got a certain amount of unwanted expertise in this. Letting a reporter go because he showed "bias"? That's ridiculous, that's dreadful. Conners had already apologized... though, actually, his apology undercut the thing that made him so sympathetic. "To be fair," he told viewers, "I should disclose that my issues with the IRS preceded that interview by several years."

Doesn't that... sort of alter the entire story? Conners started with the impression that he had been "hammered by the IRS," in some undisclosed way, completely out of the blue. But even in that first post he admitted that he couldn't "prove" it, and in his follow-up he admitted the "hammering" didn't come out of the blue. I don't like how Conners' employer reacted to the story, from how it prevented him from answering any follow up questions to how it let him go. Reporters shouldn't be prevented from airing opinions. But they should know better than to shout "fire!" in a crowded tea party.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.