Fired: News Anchor Charles Perez Speaks
BY Neal Broverman
August 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
When you were taken off weekdays and put on weekends, what were you told?I was told that this was because of the economy.
Meaning you made too much money?Yeah. The thing is, it wasn’t going to change my salary. So they were going to move me onto the weekend anchor desk. They had to realize here, and I don’t want to get too complex, but six months earlier they had shifted our schedules. So I was doing Sunday through Thursday anyway. They shifted the other weekday anchor Tuesday through Saturday. So we were covering the weekends anyway. My attorney asked the attorney from The Washington Post [owner of WPLG] to tell us how this is saving them money. And the Post attorney said, “Now we can get rid of our weekend anchors.” I said that they didn’t have any in the first place. “Come up with another one.” The other one was, “We’re going to single-anchor formats on all of our stations." I did a little bit of research and found that they are going to single-anchor format in none of their stations. Everything they kept throwing at me was a lie. The less the lies kept adding up, the less credibility I gave to anything else that was coming out of their mouths. When I took that in totality with their e-mails and their actions [including saying], "Charles, don’t have kids. Charles, don’t get married, we don’t need that. Charles, don’t dance with your partner," I started to say, “The writing is on the wall here.”
As I chronicled it and pulled out a one-inch stack of e-mails and started going through them, looking at the series of events, what they were saying, what they were telling me to do and not to do, I realized, You know what? They’re marginalizing me. And my friends would ask, “Where are the promos of you? You used to have promos of you and [co-anchor] Laurie [Jennings] together. Where did they disappear to? Now they’re just Laurie, or they’re Laurie and her kids.” The morning anchor of the station, they’re starting to promote him all of the time -- him with his kids and his wife. So they’re not promoting him as the journalist; they’re promoting him as the family man. Yeah, so it all started to smell and I could say, “Fine. A weekend job is still a good job.” But why be marginalized? I try not to read blogs, but some people were saying I must have been doing a bad job. But thank God for my performance reviews, because they’re great. They’re stellar, and that’s why it doesn’t add up.
How were your ratings?They’re number 1 in the market.
That seems unusual for them to change the format of a show that's doing so well.Why would the number 1 station need to go to a single-anchor format because of the economy? And despite the economy, it just didn’t ring true. We also just built a beautiful new building and filled it with new technology and all kinds of stuff. So I asked, Why would you get rid… If you owned a football team, and you had a quarterback who was throwing touchdowns, would you bench him to save money, even though you were still paying him his full salary? It doesn’t make sense. I’m the football player; I’m the quarterback. Eventually, of course, my contract doesn’t go on forever. Actually, now because they fired me, they stopped paying me. But if I had just accepted their terms, they would’ve had to keep paying me.
Charles, you wrote in The Daily Beast that you’ll never work in news again. Do you really think that’s true?Uh, yeah. I say that because I think…uh, I think corporate America does not like people to litigate against them. Regardless of whether they’re right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. But I am thrilled at the possibility of something I don’t yet see. I look at people like Rachel Maddow who have created wonderful forms for themselves. Now once again, I don’t think NBC is going to come knocking at my door, but there are places. I think there are great stories to be told -- great gay and lesbian stories to be told. I am -- this is really important to me in spite of everything that has happened -- a lucky guy. I’m the lucky guy because I can take this to a public forum. The gay man or gay woman who has this happen to them who can’t do that, who lives in a state that does not have laws to protect them, really can’t do anything.