The Houston Chronicle is down one Texans beat writer after the paper fired reporter Aaron Wilson on Friday once it came to light that he made some ill-considered comments on a Massachusetts sports radio show last month about the sexual misconduct accusations against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Originally reported by Defector , Wilson was let go by the Chronicle once the paper became aware of his March 19 appearance on The Greg Hill Show on Boston’s WEEI. During the interview, Wilson sounded oddly deferential to Watson’s defense team for a supposedly impartial reporter.
In addition to calling the first wave of lawsuits against Watson for purported sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during private massages “ambulance chasing” from local attorney Tony Buzbee, Wilson made sure to mention that he’s known Watson “for four years and, you know, [I’ve] been around him, not just at the stadium but at charity events and social settings“ when he characterized Watson as “a guy that is highly respected.”
Wilson sounded like he was speaking on behalf of Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin when he said that Buzbee’s attempt to broker a private cash settlement agreement with Watson prior to filing the first lawsuit was proof that the whole deal was “just a money grab.”
“In his case, you know, it’s kind of you don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Wilson said. “People are demanding money, they’re asking for money. It kept escalating, it kept going up and up and up. You’re talking about more and more funds, I’m not going to say how much it got to, but my understanding is, you know, that there was an admission that, it was, you know, something, you know just that this was, you know, just a money grab.”
It sure seems like Wilson didn’t even get permission from Chronicle brass to appear on the radio show in the first place; A staff memo sent by the paper’s executive editor Steve Riley on Friday specifically reminded employees that they have to get approval from their supervisors before making any media appearances for other news outlets.
According to Defector, Riley’s memo didn’t mention Wilson by name, but was sent to serve “as a reminder that as we report, analyze and describe those allegations, those who bring them and the person they are brought against, we must approach the story with fairness and care toward all involved.”
“Facts are good. Analysis is OK. Opinion, speculation or baseless assertions are not. We won’t tolerate that sort of commentary,” read Riley’s email.
A couple of hours after Riley’s email to Chronicle staff, Defector reported that the paper’s sports editor Reid Laymance held an emergency staff meeting with the sports department to tell them Aaron Wilson was no longer their colleague.
In a mea culpa tweeted Saturday afternoon, Wilson acknowledged that “I made a mistake that I fully understand and own when I did not choose my words nearly carefully enough during a discussion on a March 19 radio program regarding the sensitive, complex and controversial Deshaun Watson legal situation, in the days following the initial filing of the civil lawsuits from women against him.”
“My efforts to convey perspectives on the situation clearly demonstrated an unintentional lack of sensitivity to the serious nature of these type of allegations, and I sincerely apologize for my remarks,” Wilson wrote.
In total, 22 women have now sued Watson over his alleged behavior during private massage appointments, all of whom initially filed their suits anonymously. Watson has been accused of touching women with his penis and of forcing multiple women to perform oral sex on him.
Hardin has accused at least one woman of attempting to blackmail Watson prior to filing her lawsuit, and admitted that Watson had “consensual encounters” with some of his massage therapists while contending that Watson “did not force, coerce or intimidate anyone to do anything against their will.”
Two of Watson’s accusers — Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley — have gone public with their identities. On Friday, two separate Harris County judges ruled in favor of Watson’s defense team and ordered that 12 more of the women involved must refile their lawsuits without concealing their names in the days ahead.
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