Three staffers depart Tampa ABC affiliate amid investigation into Tiger Woods mistress spoof video
Three staffers have left Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28 amid the station's investigation into how a spoof video landed on the Internet reporting that an employee was one of Tiger Woods' mistresses.
Reporter/anchor/multimedia journalist Kerry Kavanaugh, who introduced the video as if she was anchoring a typical WFTS news report, was fired Monday along with her husband, photographer Jason Solowski. Reporter Karen Castillo (left) had already resigned on Friday, though a station official insisted her departure was not connected to the video controversy -- despite the fact that she also appeared in it.
WFTS general manager Rich Pegram would not detail what specific role each staffer played in producing the video, which featured the station's graphics and appeared to have filmed mostly at their studios. Pegram said about seven staffers total were disciplined for involvement in the video, with punishments ranging from suspensions to the firings.
"We decided there were different levels of participation," said Pegram, explaining the varying levels of punishment for staffers. "We're comfortable in how we've handled it."
Pegram also said the employee at the center of the spoof report -- photographer Delisa Walden -- was not offended by the video and wasn't aware of the spoof until it was completed, probably around January. At the end of the video, Kavanaugh wished Walden a happy birthday, suggesting the video was a prank or gift (Pegram would not say if Walden was disciplined).
Station officials became aware of the video Aug. 6, when a report about it surfaced on the industry website Newsblues.com. The video has appeared on some Facebook pages and was uploaded to YouTube, though station officials asked the site to take down the video.
The firings highlighted how seriously local TV stations are now taking such spoof videos, particularly when they surface on the Internet. Last month, four employees at KARK-TV in Little Rock, Ark. lost their jobs when two spoof videos filled with profanities surfaced on YouTube, featuring reporter Pete Thompson complaining in explicit terms about his job and slapping an interview source in the face. Warning, the video have lots of profanity; click here to see.
But the WFTS video was not so explicit and seemed to be presented as a good natured joke, recalling the time years ago when the area Society of Professional Journalists chapter presented its Battle of the Media Bloopers, screening joke videos and blooper reels assembled by local TV stations.
"This was a mock newscast that had the look and feel of the real thing," Pegram said last week, when the station was investigating the video. "We should not be doing that."
Kavanaugh (right) worked at WFTS for three years; Castillo had been at the station since 2008.