TAMPA — Former WTSP-Ch. 10 news anchor Reginald Roundtree defended his career and ethics during a radio interview Monday, the first time he's spoken publicly since he was fired from the TV station.
Speaking on WFLA radio’s PM Tampa Bay with Ryan Gorman, Roundtree, along with his attorney Wil Florin, touched on the high points of his 30-year career at the CBS affiliate and responded to Friday's termination, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
“I’ve dedicated my life — 30 years of my life, which is half of my life — to making that station what it is," said Roundtree, 60.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Channel 10 anchor Reginald Roundtree fired after two decades
Reached by the Times following his termination Friday, Roundtree deferred comment to Florin.
Station management told him the termination was in response to a recent Times article that raised questions about Roundtree's ethics in obtaining an interview with Michael Drejka, Florin said. Drejka faces a manslaughter charge after he shot Markeis McGlockton last year in a shooting that touched off a national debate about self-defense.
However, Roundtree and Florin maintained in the interview with Gorman that any ethical concerns are just cover for the real explanation — age discrimination against Roundtree and others at the station.
"You can see all the young faces that they advertised that they have, and then there's Reggie, and he was the last one," Florin said, "and if you look back over the years, one by one the older folks got replaced by younger folks."
The allegations are contained in a complaint Roundtree filed last month with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A spokeswoman for Channel 10’s parent company, Virginia-based TEGNA Inc., said only that his termination had nothing to do with age. TEGNA declined to elaborate.
Roundtree rejected any allegations of ethical violations regarding his interview with Drejka, saying station management was aware of his friendship with John Trevena, Drejka’s attorney.
In fact, Roundtree said, the station's news director accompanied him to the interview with Drejka at the Pinellas County jail, a sign that Roundtree took as a "stamp of approval," he said. The relationship was "part of basic journalism," he said, going on to name several prominent lawyers he has close relationships with "that I know who know and trust me to do a proper story."
In court documents, Trevena described Roundtree as his "former best friend" and said the former anchor introduced him to a woman who moved in with Trevena and later stole from him.
The woman is the sister of Roundtree's wife, Tresha, who Roundtree said on the radio has cancer. He confirmed to the Times on Tuesday that her treatment is in question now that he's without his employer health insurance.
"They knew my wife had been getting treatment and now it's been cut off," he said.
Ethics experts told the Times it's up to the news outlet to decide whether a relationship rises to the level of a conflict of interest. If so, the organization could take the reporter off the story, or disclose the relationship out of transparency to readers.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Prominent Pinellas lawyer John Trevena mired in personal drama
When radio host Gorman asked Roundtree if the story accompanying the Drejka interview disclosed Roundtree's friendship with Trevena, the former anchor said he had no idea. The story, still on WTSP's website, does not include one.
"I touched on things that nobody else could, and I got the story, and not only talked with him, but also his wife," Roundtree said.
Florin, of Palm Harbor, said he plans to conduct a broader investigation of ethics at Channel 10.
Roundtree touched on his beginnings in television following six years as a Miami police officer. He spent his last year as a spokesman, he said, and friends at a local TV station encouraged him to try out television. His first job was at WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach.
He pointed to an interview he conducted in 2017 with the parents of Sabrina Aisenberg, a 5-month old girl who disappeared in 1997 from her Valrico home. Suspicion centered on her parents, Steve and Marlene, but they were never charged in her disappearance.
He said he spoke to a friend of his who represented the couple, the late Tampa defense attorney Barry Cohen. Cohen, who died in September, gave him the interview, Roundtree said, because he knew and trusted him.
He signed off the radio interview with a goodbye to viewers.
"Tampa Bay, I love you," he said, "and I'm sorry about what happened."
Times staff writer Josh Solomon contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.