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WJLA-TV fires veteran anchor Doug McKelway, cites insubordination, misconduct

 WJLA-TV's Doug McKelway
WJLA-TV's Doug McKelway (Michael Williamson - Washington Post)

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By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010

WJLA-TV has fired veteran anchorman Doug McKelway for a verbal confrontation this summer with the station's news director that came after McKelway broadcast a sharply worded live report about congressional Democrats and President Obama.

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McKelway was placed on indefinite suspension in late July after his run-in with ABC7's news director and general manager, Bill Lord. In a letter to McKelway this week, the station said it was terminating his contract immediately, citing insubordination and misconduct.

Amid the ongoing BP oil spill in July, McKelway covered a Capitol Hill demonstration by environmental groups protesting the influence of oil-industry contributions to members of Congress.

In his piece, McKelway said the sparsely attended event attracted protesters "largely representing far-left environmental groups." He went on to say the protest "may be a risky strategy because the one man who has more campaign contributions from BP than anybody else in history is now sitting in the Oval Office, President Barack Obama, who accepted $77,051 in campaign contributions from BP."

After a brief taped segment updating efforts to cap the BP well, McKelway added that the Senate was unlikely to pass "cap-and-trade" legislation this year, because "the Democrats are looking at the potential for huge losses in Congress come the midterm elections. And the last thing they want to do is propose a huge escalation in your electric bill, your utility bill, before then."

Lord took exception to McKelway's reporting and asked to meet with him, according to several station sources who were granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive personnel matter. A shouting match between the two men ensued, leading to McKelway's suspension, sources said.

McKelway has alleged liberal favoritism in news reporting before; when he left his anchor chair at WRC after nine years to join WJLA in mid-2001, he blasted the station's lack of "balance," in a newspaper article.

McKelway declined to comment on his status at WJLA; Lord also declined to comment.

McKelway said that he is currently working on a book about his family's history in journalism in Washington. McKelway's grandfather, Benjamin, was the longtime editor of the Washington Star; his great-uncle St. Clair was a writer and editor for the New Yorker for 30 years; and his late uncle John was a columnist with the Star and the Washington Times.

WJLA is owned by Allbritton Communications of Arlington, which also owns TBD TV (formerly NewsChannel 8), Politico and TBD.com.


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