by Sam Levin
Update below: Larry Conners is out at KMOV-TV (Channel 4).
So says Mark Pimentel, KMOV's president and general manager, in an announcement on the station's website published this afternoon. The news comes just one week after Conners made controversial comments on his Facebook page speculating whether the IRS had unfairly targeted him after he did a tough interview with the president in 2012. Later that day, he disclosed on air that his issues with the IRS predated the Obama interview -- by several years.
A few days later the station said he was "temporarily" off air -- and now, it seems, he'll be parting ways with KMOV for good.
See also: - Larry Conners Off Air After IRS Comments, Lawyer Says Not Allowed To Talk - KMOV-TV's Larry Conners Says IRS May Have Been Targeting Him For Years - Larry Conners Shows Off His O-Face: "Squeeze Those Legs, Larry! Squeeze 'Em!"
Here's Pimentel's full announcement, which cites the importance of "journalistic standards" and unbiased reporting.
We regret to announce that Larry Conners is no longer a KMOV news reporter. Larry was a valued member of KMOV for a long time, and we will miss him.
For KMOV, there is no higher cause than unbiased, objective news reporting. It is what our viewers expect and it is what we work very hard to deliver. We can accept no less. Larry is certainly entitled to his opinion, but taking a personal political position on one of the Station's Facebook pages creates an appearance of bias that is inconsistent with important journalistic standards. 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. Bringing you accurate and unbiased reporting is the reason we exist.
Reached just now, Conners' attorney Merle Silverstein could not offer any immediate comment, but tells Daily RFT that Conners did meet with KMOV brass sometime this afternoon. (Update: Read Daily RFT's interview with Larry Conners here).
Conners' brief on-air comments about the Facebook post last week.
Update, 4:45 p.m.: Daily RFT reached Pimentel, KMOV's president, this afternoon who tells us that the station has formally terminated Conners' contract.
"Larry's been a valued employee for a very long time," he says.
Pimentel tells us that KMOV and Conners had just one month ago signed a "multi-year contract," meaning the station had every intention of keeping him on until this controversy erupted. "Clearly, Larry was a part of our longer term plan."
Pimentel says that Conners has continued to agree to uphold the company's journalistic standards in his contracts. He says that he and KMOV's news director Sean McLaughlin made the decision together to terminate Conners' contract.
"We dedicate a ton of our resources to political reporting and government reporting," Pimentel says. "It's critical that we do this in an unbiased manner."
From our original coverage, here's Conners' comments in full on the IRS that sparked the whole debate (now no longer available on Facebook):
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. Originally, the IRS apologized for red-flagging conservative groups and their members if they had "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their name. Today, there are allegations that the IRS focused on various groups and/or individuals questioning or criticizing government spending, taxes, debt or how the government is run ... any involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, or social economic reform/movement. In that April 2012 interview, I questioned President Obama on several topics: the Buffet Rule, his public remarks about the Supreme Court before the ruling on the Affordable Care Act. I also asked why he wasn't doing more to help Sen. Claire McCaskill who at that time was expected to lose. The Obama interview caught fire and got wide-spread attention because I questioned his spending. I said some viewers expressed concern, saying they think he's "out of touch" because of his personal and family trips in the midst of our economic crisis. The President's face clearly showed his anger; afterwards, his staff which had been so polite ... suddenly went cold. That's to be expected, and I can deal with that just as I did with President George H. Bush's staff when he didn't like my questions. Journalistic integrity is of the utmost importance to me. My job is to ask the hard questions, because I believe viewers have a right to be well-informed. I cannot and will not promote anyone's agenda - political or otherwise - at the expense of the reporting the truth. What I don't like to even consider ... is that because of the Obama interview ... the IRS put a target on me. Can I prove it? At this time, no. But it is a fact that since that April 2012 interview ... the IRS has been pressuring me.