Former St. Louis Anchor Weighs in on Larry Connors


Former KMOV Anchor Julius Hunter has been asked about his thoughts on the firing of his former colleague Larry Connors?

You know the story, Connors was canned for a Facebook post about how the IRS was "hammering" him. Connors has since sued the station for discrimination...claiming that his black female co-anchor was making more than him.

Hunter, says he has been asked about the Connors saga all over town and he decided to break his silence on the issue in the local paper.

Of course, ever the anchorman, Hunter makes his story all about him and really doesn't say anything about Hunter.

But you can read between the lines and tell where he stands.

Here's his take:

Gee willikers! Can’t an old rusty TV news anchor get a moment’s peace these days? Seems I can’t go anywhere without someone assuming I give a whole heckuva hoot about all this mess with Larry Conners being fired at KMOV. I’m bombarded with phone calls, shouts across supermarket aisle, email, letters and texts. (And I don’t even text.) All want my take on this story that won’t go away. Well, after consulting the sacred “Guide Book for TV Anchor Standards and Practices,” I’ve decided to break my silence I’ve treasured after being one of those cloistered anchors away. Haven’t really watched much local news since Nov. 26, 2002 — my last night on the air. But the sound you hear next will be that of breaking silence.

First of all, what’s all this stuff about racial discrimination directed at an anchor? Seems like I survived some heavy-duty, Grade-A Large racism being the first African-American reporter/anchor in a regular St. Louis prime time TV slot. Survived it unscathed for 33 years.

Some hateful slurs were written to me over the years … letters with every other word misspelled. Phone calls from people with obvious IQs the same as room temperature. Rip up. Hang up. An Overland-based chapter of the Ku Klux Klan used to come to the station lobby every year to threaten me. Called the FBI. No need to call the EEOC.

I developed a taste for flying directly into the face of the nastiest racial hatred instead of whining about it. Once I insisted on interviewing the head of the National Socialist White People’s Party. My crew and I — the only newsfolk who showed up — made a prearranged point of loudly storming out of the news conference right in the middle of the vitriol. How should one handle racial bias? My crew and I were handed all the NSWPP’s venomous pamphlets, and I promptly got those guys busted by the cops for distributing literature without a proper permit.

The on-the-job racism I experienced that day prompted a call to local police and the FBI, but no calls to the EEOC for on-the-job racial injuries. If there is racism coming in machine gun blatancy or even in water pistol spurts from management or colleagues, I think any anchor worth his/her paycheck should fight it wearing Kevlar-thick skin.

I’ve tried hard, and failed, to see if I could remember any relativity between tough interviews with presidents and income taxes. I’ve had exclusive interviews with six incumbent presidents. Even had brief chats with Bush II and presidential candidate Barack Obama. Asked tough questions of all. Check the transcripts. I led off my 1982 exclusive with Republican President Reagan with: “Mr. President, if the polls are to be believed you’re not a popular president among such groups as environmentalists, the poor, blacks, educators and organized labor.” No IRS harassment followed.

And at the end of my exclusive interview with Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994, I capped the interview when the lights were shut off with: “Mr. President, I gotta tell you, I’m the only on-air anchor at my station that likes you. So don’t embarrass me!” He threw his head back and gave that famous, raspy, hearty laugh. Of course, Monica Lewinsky and impeachment came along later … but the IRS never did.

So far as being paid less than a colleague with whom one is inextricably joined at the elbow for promotion’s sake: I always assumed that salary level was based on a lot of “c” words: competency, consistent connectivity with the largest audience possible, and complete comity with colleagues of every stripe. Believe it or not, some news anchors can score zero on the comity criterion. I never had time to look over a co-anchor’s shoulder to peek at his/her paycheck.

During my 28 years at Channel 4, I never once had an agent, never asked for a raise, received extremely handsome “love pats” every single year, was always granted multiyear contracts, and was presented new contracts an entire year before any expiration dates. What? Me worry about where I stood on the anchor pay chart? Personal security is a terrible thing to waste.

But while enjoying the longtime good graces of viewers, management and colleagues, after a while … I began to see what I thought might have been a wee skosh of “handwriting on the wall.” Perhaps painted on with Geritol. Then I looked squarely in the mirror and said: “Pops, you know you’re 33 years older than when you started, don’t you?” Gee willikers. “Your options appear to be: (a) walk out with dignity on your own two feet; (b) look out for that boot!” GM Allan Cohen was wonderfully understanding of where my head was when I asked to be let out of my contract … early. He made me stay on an extra year … in the interest of another important “c” word. Continuity. But, Cohen ruled, I did qualify for the “early release” program.

There’s still time in this increasingly embarrassing airing of dirty laundry for the Anchorman’s Prayer: “O, God… make my words sweet today … for I might have to eat them tomorrow.” Amen.

H/T St. Louis Post Dispatch