Anchor Under Fire for Comments

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WGRZ (Buffalo) Anchor Maryalice Demler is catching heat for calling out competing Journalists in Buffalo with her comments made at a Catholic church forum.

The forum, which featured Journalists was billed as a way to help the church move forward from the sexual abuse crisis in the Buffalo Diocese.

The Buffalo News writes that Demler ended up upsetting some in attendance who interpreted her remarks as an unprofessional critique of a competing TV station.

Multiple people came away from the panel at St. Joseph University Church near the University at Buffalo campus on Main Street calling Demler “unprofessional” in what they termed her “insinuations” about the way whistle-blower Siobhan O’Connor and WKBW Reporter Charlie Specht handled the story – without mentioning the two by name.

In an email response, Demler said her remarks were misrepresented by those offended and that she has the support of another panelist.

The panel, titled “Rebuild My House: Going Forward in Faith Together,” was a follow-up to a recent forum on the crisis in the church. The event was billed as a chance “to address the sexual abuse crisis, how it has been handled by the church, and how we might be able to move forward together.”

The controversy over the interpretation of Demler’s remarks would seem to validate the decisions of Specht and Buffalo News reporter Jay Tokasz to decline to be part of the panel. Demler was a replacement for Specht, who has been the television leader on the sexual abuse scandal.

“As a working journalist, I didn’t want to be in a position where I was being asked to give my personal opinions,” said WKBW Reporter Specht. “I wanted my work to speak for itself.”

Jim Faluszczak, a former priest, a whistle-blower and a victim of sexual abuse, was one of the attendees upset by Demler’s remarks.

“I found her remarks to be disturbing,” he said. “It was more insinuation than anything about Charlie and Siobhan O’Connor. I was disturbed by her boldfaced posturing as setting herself apart from other journalists. The insinuation about her station’s coverage was counter to Charlie and Siobhan.

“She said we (at WGRZ) are a professional organization and my colleagues adhere to commonly held professional standards. She didn’t name names. But given the context, it is clear what she was insinuating.”

He felt Demler was criticizing WKBW’s reports, which were augmented by O’Connor’s documents.

“She said they were unfair in sharing internal documents with only one news outlet,” said Faluszczak. “She criticized the release in drips and drabs. She was insinuating they were trying to keep the story going.”

“She was very unprofessional,” said J. Carroll Becker, another attendee. “She couldn’t separate her Catholic hat from her news hat. She referred to herself as the person at work who redeems the fallen Catholics and sends them to St. Joseph’s.”

Demler said in a written response that the summary of her comments was not accurate and a misrepresentation.

“Monday night’s event was emotionally charged, however,” wrote Demler. “I made many comments as an unbiased journalist – which may not have been critical enough for some attendees who are understandably very hurt and angry at Bishop Malone. I also shared the stages of grief I have experienced as a cradle Catholic. In the beginning there was denial, shock, disbelief … and then ultimately after reading all the documents myself … resignation, disappointment and more shock.

“I did attempt to explain our journalistic process at Channel 2 because I have been asked previously why we did not report on this story until after all the documents were released. I explained we could not independently verify the documents because Ms. O’Connor chose to give them to one station. That is not a criticism of Channel 7 nor Charlie Specht — and I do not know why someone would draw that conclusion about my comments.”

Like the WKBW Reporter, Demler should have declined the invitation, but she did not.