Backstage Pass

A former Fox reporter's lawsuit may air a lot of dirty laundry

Former Fox 26 reporter Lloyd Gite is suing the station over his termination, and if the trial is anything like the depositions, it'll be must-viewing for anyone who wants to revel in backstage drama.

We've gotten a look at Gite's deposition, and he's not shy about naming names as he recounts on-air talent sleeping with management, reporters appearing drunk on camera, anchors loudly hating each other's guts, cameramen smoking dope or drinking at work, reporters stealing company money and lesser-qualified people being promoted ahead of him.

We'll let Gite deal with the possible legal ramifications of attaching names to those claims; for now, it's simply safe to say that the federal suit is likely to bring much public unhappiness to Channel 26.

Gite was fired in November 2000 after 18 years at Fox, where he ended up doing "Bayou City Beat," a daily light-and-bright remote on the morning news.

He said at the time that management was harassing him; he has since filed a federal suit claiming racial discrimination, saying he was passed over for promotion, made less money than other reporters and was subjected to taunts all because he's black.

"I'm ready to take the gloves off," says Gite, 51, who's now doing freelance work and "looking for a job."

He says he's disappointed that public officials like U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee haven't taken up his cause. "She's a media whore, and she doesn't want to piss off the people at Fox, I guess," he says. "Fox is not that unique in this town in terms of racism or racial epithets in newsrooms. There are real problems in the media here that no one is addressing."

Calls to 26 were referred to Ivey Van Allen, a Fox network vice president. "KRIV adamantly denies Mr. Gite's baseless allegations of discrimination," she said. "KRIV exercised its right to terminate Mr. Gite's employment based on his history of inappropriate workplace conduct and violations of company policy."

In addition to dishing freely about his former colleagues, Gite said he had been on the receiving end of several racial jeers. One co-worker, he said, asked him "why it was I didn't have a nigger ass." A supervisor, he said, once called him a "black asshole."

Channel 26's general manager, D'Artagnan Bebel, is black, but Gite says Bebel had it in for him as soon as he took over in January 2000.

Whether all this is the carping of a disgruntled employee or an accurate picture of Gite's tenure is hard to tell at this point. But the publicity of a lawsuit won't be good for the news station.

Unless the case is settled or dismissed, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal will have to decide how much a jury will hear about the alleged backstage high jinks at Fox.

The jury also will have to determine how much of it is true. One thing from the deposition that they shouldn't doubt, however, came when Fox attorney Michael Buchanan questioned Gite about his reputation for being pushy toward photographers and some co-workers.

"Since you don't know much about the television business," Gite responded to Buchanan, "maybe I should tell you that it is full of prima donnas, and those kind of people exist at every station."

Hey, if he said it under oath, it must be true.

Fame Is Fleeting

Freshmen members of Congress may be well known back home, but they're pretty anonymous folk in Washington, D.C. So it was rather impressive when newly elected Chris Bell landed the Holy Grail of national politics: a photo on the front page of The New York Times.

The accomplishment was somewhat dimmed, however, once he read the caption to the photo, which identified him as an aide to new House member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Anonymous). Even worse, the caption could have been read to mean that Bell was an aide to the other incoming representative pictured: Florida's Katherine Harris, the recount queen.

"I walked into an orientation meeting and [new Chicago representative] Rahm Emanuel says, 'Hey, you made the front page of the Times,' " Bell says. "I was real excited until I saw what they wrote. Ruppersberger's been asking me to get him coffee ever since."

Good Heads

We offer two recent headlines from the Houston Chronicle.

The first is from its Web site, over a November 12 AP report on the no-dames policy of Hootie Johnson, who bars women from joining the country club that hosts the Masters golf tournament: "Johnson Stands Defiant on a Woman at Augusta." (Ouch. We hope he's not wearing his golf shoes.)

The second is from the November 11 Religion section, on a story about the Promise Keepers' plans to use hip-hop music and extreme sports to get in touch with the whippersnappers: "Evangelical Movement Turns Attention to Teenage Boys." (Insert Catholic joke here.)

 
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