Hecker went off-script at the start of a live news hit on Fox 26’s 5 p.m. broadcast Monday, claiming that her corporate overlords were “muzzling” her, and that she had secret recordings of her bosses to prove it.
But the main revelations to come out of a 17-minute video posted by Project Veritas Tuesday night were that Hecker’s superiors reprimanded her for bringing up the debunked “coronavirus cure” hydroxychloroquine during an interview and for complaining on social media that an unhinged Houston doctor pushing the drug had been censored.
She also argued that her bosses’ use of demographic data to guide what news stories the station’s audience would care about in certain time slots was proof that the station had sinister motives.
Fox 26 did not respond when the Houston Press called Tuesday to ask whether Hecker had been terminated after her on-air outburst, but a spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Hecker had indeed been fired by the station, claiming that “This incident involves nothing more than a disgruntled former employee seeking publicity by promoting a false narrative produced through selective editing and misrepresentation.”
Project Veritas posted its video to its YouTube channel Tuesday night, featuring an interview Hecker did with James O’Keefe, a noted right-wing agitator and the group’s founder, as well as secretly recorded footage of Hecker talking to her Fox bosses and videos of undercover Project Veritas staff talking to other Fox employees.
“Fox came at my throat for standing up against censorship,” Hecker told O’Keefe in the video, citing a social media post Hecker made last year decrying how social media platforms had been blocking videos of Dr. Stella Immanuel, who’d insisted that hydroxychloroquine was a miracle COVID-cure.
Immanuel, the Houston doctor who notably claimed that many health problems are caused by having sex with demons, touted hydroxychloroquine last year, and a video starring the doctor’s claims the anti-malaria drug could cure the coronavirus was reposted by former President Donald Trump despite there being no evidence at the time the drug could successfully treat COVID-19.
After Hecker made a post on social media in which she opposed how Immanuel’s videos were being removed and labelled as coronavirus misinformation, she later posted a snippet from an interview she did with United Memorial Medical Center’s Dr. Joseph Varon in which he said he’d been using hydroxychloroquine to try and treat some COVID-19 patients. Hecker was then told by her superiors to stop bringing up hydroxychloroquine at work and online.
“You need to cease and desist posting about hydroxychloroquine,” Fox 26 news director Susan Schiller told Hecker in a recording Hecker shared with Project Veritas. Schiller said she thought Hecker "had failed as a reporter" for not doing more research on the drug and blasted her for continuing to bring it up when studies had shown it wasn’t an effective COVID-19 treatment.
“There’s a narrative,” Hecker told O’Keefe. “Yes, it is unspoken, but if you accidentally step outside the narrative, if you don’t sense what that narrative is and go with it, there will be grave consequences for you.”
The Project Veritas video also included a clip of Fox 26 assistant news director Lee Meier explaining to Hecker why the station had turned down stories about Bitcoin in the 5 p.m. news hour.
“I have passed on Bitcoin stories by almost every single reporter for our five o’clock audience, because that’s not our five o’clock audience. If I know our numbers are tanking at five to six, and in one particular segment,” Meier said, “I may say ‘Yeah, Bitcoin for [our] poor African-American audience at five, it’s probably not going to play.’ That’s a choice I’m making.”
Hecker insisted to O’Keefe those comments from Meier were proof of a vast conspiracy that Fox managers were deciding to hold back valuable information from the public on allegedly racist grounds, rather than being proof that all news outlets decide what stories to publish and when based on their own target audiences.
The Project Veritas video also included clips of undercover operatives from the group talking to low-level Fox 26 employees. Two Fox workers who appear to be at a loud bar at night are seen talking about how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ad Council have paid for ads during Fox 26 broadcasts which explain the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
The undercover Project Veritas rep then tried to tie those ad payments into a conspiracy that the station is covering coronavirus vaccines positively because it’s getting advertising payments.
When the undercover operative asked if, hypothetically, the Ad Council could call Fox 26 and say “Hey, I want you to run all these spots but I want to make sure your journalists aren’t running any anti-vax stories,” the Fox 26 promo producer said “If that happens, it’s above our [pay grade].” Her colleague, a sales coordinator at the station said “It can, a lot of stuff can happen.”
Hecker and O’Keefe tried to spin this admittedly flimsy evidence into proof that Fox 26 had financial incentives to cover vaccines favorably and to suppress “any negative press” about the life-saving shots.
“If you want to get vaccinated, that’s great. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your personal choice. But to use the venue of news to try to convince you to do something with your life,” Hecker said, “that was the journalism schools’ definition of propaganda.”
“That’s why I’m doing this,” Hecker said. “The viewers,” she argued, “are being deceived by a carefully crafted narrative in some stories. In some areas, they do fantastic journalism, [but] for some reason, some of these stories have an incredible slant, and if you accidentally step outside it, they try to internally destroy you.”
Hecker told O’Keefe she’s “so horrified as to what the news business has stooped to,” that she wants out “of this narrative newstelling. I want out of this corruption.”
If the online fundraiser Hecker’s mother set up for her that was emblazoned across the bottom of the Project Veritas video is any indication, Hecker won’t have to stoop to the supposedly ignoble profession of covering the news for a corporation any time soon. As of Wednesday morning, over $88,000 in donations had come through.