Last Friday (Apr. 24), I wrote about ESPN reporter Britt McHenry’s verbal abuse against a clerk at a towing company. While the Disney/Hearst cable network took immediate action, the penalty amounted to a one-week suspension. I also pointed out that McHenry’s own apology, via Twitter, was far from appropriate or complete. I then offered a long list of actions McHenry could take that would demonstrate true repentance.
However, two readers of my commentary had a different method for handling the reporter.
John Baldwin wrote, “…having watched the video/camera account, and having read the actual text of her words, I would be far less forgiving than you, Jim… I would have fired her had she been our staff employee representing my cardiovascular surgical practice which stands for excellence across the board.”
“I absolutely agree with Dr. Baldwin,” Skip Manosh added. “In any organization where you are the ‘face of the company’ so to speak you have a responsibility to represent that organization in all your words and actions. … No apology coming from these self-centered individuals is sincere. The only answer is to fire her. Let her try to explain to her next prospective employer her situation and why she’s unemployed.”
In searching for updates on this story, I was surprised to discover that there is a growing list of individuals calling for ESPN to fire McHenry.
In a story appearing in The Chicago Tribune (Apr. 17), Phil Thompson writes, “The drumbeat for Britt McHenry’s firing got a little louder. An online petition calling for the ESPN reporter to be dismissed gained 3,400 signatures in about 20 hours since late Thursday. Another petition has more than 3,000 supporters. …
“A one-sentence Change.org petition to the sports network simply says, ‘ESPN: Fire Britt McHenry.’ It’s seeking 5,000 signatures. The site contained at least seven petitions requesting McHenry’s ouster.”
Many of the petition’s signers were as incensed as both my readers.
Ashley B, from Hanford, California wrote, “I have a degree. I work in media and public relations. I am beyond disgusted at how she acted. She makes, not only women, but all of us with degree who work in this field, look as though we hold ourselves higher than those who don’t have a degree. She threw out an utterly disrespectful and unfeeling apology for her action. After watching the video and seeing her face, words AND attitude, I KNOW that this is what her TRUE personality is EVERY DAY! She should be FIRED and show her what a woman with a degree who works as a parking attendant looks like!”
Michelle Fincham from Orlando, Florida: “She is a disgrace to women! This world is already so cruel we don’t need public figures putting a woman down simply because she’s upset and THINKS she’s above anyone. HORRIBLE BEHAVIOR.”
Katie Kay, Middletown, Delaware: “Ms. McHenry is a representative of ESPN and the Walt Disney Company. This incident belies a stunning lack of judgment and consciousness of her role as a media figure. Everyone makes mistakes, but Ms. McHenry displays a deep-seeded disdain for – and prejudice against – the very people (working people, women, etc.) who no doubt constitute a large portion of ESPN’s viewership. Thus, ESPN and Disney must respond swiftly and decisively.”
George Flynn of Angleton, Texas: “Dignity cannot be taught nor can it be magically be acquired in a one week suspension. The video was merely a window through which we viewed McHenry’s core values and inner self. Undoubtedly, this was not the first time she exhibited this behavior and will not be the last. She is just a BIGOT of another type!!! …”
Ryan Bruza from Los Angeles, California: “I’m signing this because even in your weakest moment no human being should be treated that way. Britt’s apology is defensive and defective at best. ESPN has severely dropped the ball handling this. I have paid for a monthly subscription and as an ESPN Insider for nearly 15 years. What’s funny is that my subscription is currently up for renewal, and will definitely not renew because of the handling of this incident. ESPN employees have said far less and been punished far worse. This is simply unacceptable. I’m surprised that you don’t hold your brand in a higher regard. Shameful.”
Alex Lopez from Portland, Oregon: “She is a classless snob who only apologized to save her own butt. I don’t believe there was any sincerity in it…”
Joseph Bassett from Lenox, Georgia: “NEVER mistake education for intelligence!”
Heather Rowedda from Marion, Ohio points out: “This isn’t Britt McHenry’s FIRST incident. She has had a least TWO prior Twitter wars where she used appearance and her superior education to belittle others. She’s nothing but a BULLY!!”
I couldn’t locate corroborating stories to the last comment. However, as evidenced by the petitions, many people were clearly offended by McHenry’s actions. As of Wednesday, 16,793 individuals have signed the petition with a goal of 25,000.
I believe in second chances. We all make mistakes, and we all need forgiveness for those mistakes. Nonetheless, the critical evidence is on the tape, McHenry was told she was being recorded, and continued her tirade.
Clearly, ESPN should take more decisive action, and just as clearly, the reaction from fans – thousands of them – should be taken into account.