WASHINGTON – It’s difficult to imagine a more clear-cut a case of media bias.
One reporter at a television station said on the air, “Ted Cruz is like the dark lord from Star Wars,” and, “I think he’s the Antichrist.”
Another reporter at the same television station stated in a private Facebook post that she was “happy and relieved” the morning after Donald Trump won the presidential election.
The reporter who privately made the conservative comment was fired.
The reporter who publicly made the liberal comment still has his job.
Scarlett Fakhar was a rising star, a reporter and noon anchor for KRIV-TV, the Fox 26 affiliate in Houston, Texas.
“I worked my way up,” the stunning and erudite young journalist told WND. “I didn’t start off as the noon anchor. I started as an evening news reporter then started anchoring.”
But her star abruptly came crashing back to earth when she became the story instead of the reporter. Suddenly, she was making national headlines for having been fired a week after posting her comments on a private Facebook page, visible only to her friends.
Or, so she thought.
After the Houston Chronicle obtained and published a screenshot of the post, Fakhar was called on the carpet by her bosses, forced to issue an apology that they wrote for her, then fired.
Now she is giving WND the story behind the scenes and exposing what appears to be a blatant double standard and a hypocritical enforcement of company policy at KRIV, in her first interview in print since her firing.
“I was fired for my political beliefs,” Fakhar bluntly told WND.
“Reporters at my station are allowed to espouse their liberal views on-air and on their public work pages, but I’m not allowed to write my conservative views on my personal page for friends. There is without a doubt a double standard,” she stated plainly but emphatically.
Fakhar pointed to examples of colleagues expressing liberal opinions with no repercussions, in direct contrast to how she was treated.
“It’s just shocking to me,” she said.
“I see reactions made by fellow journalists, but yet, mine is treated different. It’s not often times you see a conservative’s reaction, especially in local news. And I immediately get fired.”
A striking example of the difference in treatment is evidenced by a televised appearance of KRIV reporter and anchor Isiah Carey.
Fakhar said he was a reporter for several years who was given his own Friday night show.
It is in a Feb. 5, 2016, clip of that show, below, that Carey quipped then-presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “is like the dark lord from Star Wars, and, “I think he’s the anti-Christ.”
See the clip:
In a second clip from that broadcast, Carey again called Cruz the Antichrist, and added, “You know there’s dark side music playing every time he enters the room.”
Carey also said, “Tell me one good thing he’s done.”
Carey mentions “the Antichrist” again:
Fakhar confirmed to WND that Carey is still on the air every day doing news stories for KRIV.
“He is extremely close with D’Artagnan Bebel, the general manager,” she noted.
Notably, Bebel appeared to have no problem making a politically charged Facebook post of his own, ridiculing Republicans as well as Fox News.
The post, a parody of Fox News anchors questioning the GOP presidential candidates, had Megyn Kelly calling Trump a “woman-hating liar.”
Bebel’s comment was “DECISION 2016: You decide!”
WND contacted Bebel for a response to this article but did not receive a reply.
Carey also posted this comment on Facebook:
But, while the anchor-reporter Carey and station manager Bebel were free to express their opinions with the world, the station apparently fired Fakhar for sharing her opinion with friends.
“People were furious when I was fired,” Fakhar told WND.
“Fox 26 deleted dozens of comments in support of me on their page. The ‘delete’ button became my old station’s best friend on Facebook. They obviously kept any comments in support of my firing.”
Some of the comments supporting Fakhar are listed at the bottom of this story.
This is the Facebook comment she made on the morning after the election that would lead to her firing:
Fakhar told WND she had seen posts from fellow journalists expressing their dismay over the election results, so she expressed her own reaction.
“I have a private Facebook page, and I have friends from college that are doing the exact same thing as me across the country. I was happy. I wanted to post a comment about my happiness over the election.”
She told WND there was no fallout whatsoever until the Houston Chronicle published a screenshot of her comment, along with a headline that claimed she was “under fire for (a) pro-Trump Facebook post.”
Fakhar said she was “under fire” from no one expect a liberal blogger cited in the article, who may have brought the post to the paper’s attention.
“There was nothing in that post that I’m ashamed of repeating or showing everyone,” she told WND.
But, less than a day later, “My boss called me into the office and said that the Houston Chronicle had a screenshot of my post, had published it, and now it’s a huge deal.”
Her bosses forced her to write an apology.
“But I didn’t write that apology,” she said. “They wrote it for me. They copy and pasted it to my Facebook page. And that’s how that apology originated.”
But Fakhar had second thoughts almost immediately.
“I took down the apology before they fired me. I sent them an email letting them know I had taken it down and they didn’t have a problem with it.”
Here is the apology:
“They wrote that and gave that to me. That’s important to know,” Fakhar explained.
She described how the station called her in a panic, early in the morning, waking her up and telling her, “We need you here, now.”
“I went in, and they immediately had me meet with my general manager, the head of HR, my news director, and they were all telling me, ‘You need to write this apology immediately. Then we’ll talk about everything else.'”
Fakhar said it all happened so fast that she didn’t have time to think it through.
“I didn’t really have time to say, ‘Hey look, I’m not going to do this,’ until later. Until I really thought about it and realized I am not sorry for what I wrote.”
Did she feel railroaded?
After that, she said her bosses kept her in the office for about a week, having her just write stories for newscasts, produce some of the news and also write stories for other anchors.
“At the end of that week, HR called me into the office and said they were terminating my contract based on the fact that I had breached their social media policy in the employee handbook.”
Fakhar said there was nothing in her contract that said employees could not post opinions on their personal social media pages, but there was an employee handbook that prohibited posting anything that hurt the station.
“So they decided to fire me. And now I am sitting here without a job because I supported Donald Trump in a post on my private Facebook page. And now I’m just kind of stuck in this position.”
Asked how her colleagues reacted, Fakhar said one friend offered support, but others shunned her.
“It’s so hard to explain to people who don’t know what it’s like to work in local news, but almost everyone at that station is liberal,” she reflected. “And I’ve heard liberal comments come out of everybody’s mouth at that station. I knew who they were voting for just by working next to them everyday and hearing their conversations. And some of them voiced their opinions on the air. And on their fan pages, at times.”
Did Fakhar believe she had to keep her political opinions to herself to survive professionally?
“Yes. For the four years that I have done this, absolutely.”
Then why would she make the Facebook post if she felt it would endanger her job?
“Because I just felt so strongly about it, and I think that I’ve hit a turning point. This country is just more divided than it has ever been, and I think that more people need to be speaking the truth, giving the facts as they are, and that’s exactly what I did.”
She said the main reaction from colleagues on the night of the election was disbelief that Trump had won. WND asked if she had felt free to share her own opinion.
“No. Not at all,” she replied without hesitation. “Because everybody, the majority of people in this newsroom, were liberal. And I didn’t feel comfortable jumping into their conversations.”
But her colleagues all felt free to express their liberal opinions in the newsroom and did not fear recrimination?
What did she think would’ve happened if she had expressed conservative opinions?
“I feel that I would have immediately been a target. I would have had a target on my back. Or that people would not have been as friendly with me. I have so many friends in that newsroom. I have friends to this day that I don’t agree with politically, but I’ve never had any issue with them. As soon as people found out what I posted, there were people who would not talk to me.”
Did she think her colleagues kept to an ethical standard of not expressing bias?
“Not 100 percent, no. I wouldn’t say they’re biased every time, but I definitely think that, even on the air, there have been times that they have expressed bias.”
Did she think the problem wasn’t that she expressed an opinion, but that she expressed the wrong opinion?
“Yes. Absolutely,” she again replied without hesitation. “I think that if I had been on the other end of the spectrum, saying something like, ‘Oh I woke up this morning feeling sick, I couldn’t get out of bed,’ like some of the others did, then I would not be in this position.”
She reflected: “No one would have felt the need to screenshot my opinion and send it to the Houston Chronicle. I can’t believe this all started with something posted on my personal Facebook page.
“I’ve been a reporter for four years, and I’ve never had any problems with any boss. You won’t see one discrepancy in any of my jobs, ever. And especially when it comes to unbiased reporting,” she exclaimed firmly but with a wisp of exasperation.
Did she think her reporting was unbiased?
“Yes. 100 percent. Anyone can look up any of the stories I have ever done. I have always been unbiased.”
Given that her colleagues had made posts expressing liberal views without negative consequences, WND asked if she has considered taking legal action against the station?
“Well, it’s not at the top of my list, that’s what I’ve been telling my friends and family. I just want to get a job. I love what I do. And, I believe right now, more than ever, there is a need for a voice like mine in media somewhere.”
What did she mean by a voice like hers?
“I think the truth is needed in our media these days,” Fakhar explained.
“I’ve been in local news for four years now, and I can say without a doubt that the majority of people who are in local news are liberal. And they have liberal agendas.”
She continued, “There have been many instances where I have had to step up and say, ‘Look, you have a whole block here on Hillary Clinton, and you haven’t even mentioned Donald Trump.'”
“Or when we did cover Donald Trump, it was all negative,” Fakhar observed. “We didn’t even mention WikiLeaks in one of our newscasts. The day that it came out, they didn’t have anything on WikiLeaks in the newscast until I brought it to their attention. And even when they did, it was less than 20 seconds at the end of the block, after eight minutes of negative Donald Trump reaction.”
She reflected, “There have been times when I’ve had to speak up and say, ‘Look, we’ve got to be even here, you know.'”
“So, a voice like mine means someone who will pursue the truth,” said the young journalist who has learned a lesson that will last, no doubt, throughout her career.
The following are screenshots of some of the comments posted on KRIV’s Facebook page after Fakhar was fired. The company deleted these posts: