Fox News fires Bob Beckel for “making an insensitive remark to an African-American employee”; Update: Fox issues statement
No word yet on what he said but I wonder if it would have been handled differently a year ago. Amid all the lawsuits and bad press related to sexual harassment allegedly committed by Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, Fox is also battling a racial discrimination suit filed by a dozen black employees, one of whom is anchor Kelly Wright. (A 13th employee has filed a complaint with the EEOC.) If they’d let Beckel slide, it would have damaged their defense. The policy had to be zero tolerance.
“Bob Beckel was terminated today for making an insensitive remark to an African-American employee,” the network said in a statement.
The dismissal opens – or perhaps closes – another chapter in an off-and-on relationship Beckel has had with the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet over the years. Beckel, a longtime political consultant as well as a former campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale, joined Fox News in 2000, and had a years-long tenure on “The Five” when it aired in the late afternoon. Indeed, he was one of the program’s original co-hosts.
He departed in 2015 while recuperating from back surgery in a split that was seen as less an amicable. “We tried to work with Bob for months, but we couldn’t hold ‘The Five’ hostage to one man’s personal issues,” said Bill Shine, who was then the network’s executive vice president of programming, in a statement at the time. “He took tremendous advantage of our generosity, empathy and goodwill and we simply came to the end of the road with him.”
He came back to “The Five” in January of this year where his niche, as always, was the “liberal Archie Bunker,” the brusque curmudgeon who didn’t care if you thought he was obnoxious and whom you sort of liked because of that. Turns out the comparison was truer than we knew!
Evidently Fox News HR received a report of what he said on Tuesday evening, investigated for 48 hours, and was sufficiently satisfied that the claim was true to cut Beckel loose this morning. They’re not saying anything right now — what Beckel said, to whom he said it, who might replace him on “The Five,” and so on. I sure hope Juan Williams wasn’t the target of his abuse. Bad enough that the poor guy’s having guns pulled on him in the workplace. Now this.
Williams is already in rotation on the show so presumably he’ll be more of a regular host going forward. Maybe they’ll also add Julie Roginsky, who filed suit against the network last month because, she claims, Roger Ailes told her she’d need to have sex with him to land a co-host spot on “The Five.” Making Roginsky a co-host now would right another alleged wrong after Beckel’s departure. In the meantime, exit question: Which Fox host will be the first to cite Beckel as proof that liberals are racist?
Update: Fox says no one tried to pressure the employee to withdraw his complaint.
“As Mr. Wigdor knows, Fox News made the decision to terminate Mr. Beckel after a prompt and thorough investigation. His client raised the complaint to Kevin Lord, EVP Human Resources, on Tuesday evening via email and within 7 minutes Mr. Lord responded and began the investigation. Today, Fox News delivered that message to Mr. Beckel and facilitated an apology from Mr. Beckel to the employee minutes after he was terminated. No one tried to persuade Mr. Wigdor’s client to withdraw his complaint.”