Derek Myers, a television reporter with NBC affiliate WVLA in Baton Rouge, was fired from the network Tuesday after asking U.S. Senator and Louisiana gubernatorial candidate David Vitter about his admitted history of patronizing prostitutes. Myers believes that he was terminated because Vitter’s campaign threatened to pull $250,000 in advertising from WVLA over the confrontation.
Tuesday morning, Myers confronted Vitter in the parking lot of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office after Vitter officially declared his candidacy for governor, the Louisiana Advocate reports, asking the senator whether he still continues to visit prostitutes. Vitter did not answer his question.
Myers told Gawker that a coworker at WVLA informed him of a conversation that he or she overheard between the station’s news director and its vice president of news later that day, during which the threat of pulled campaign advertising was allegedly discussed. After it was stated that the station’s general manager should personally apologize to the Vitter campaign for Myers’ questions, “It was said that David Vitter pulled his advertising dollars, or someone from David Vitter’s office called about ad dollars,” Myers said. He declined to name the coworker who informed him about the alleged conversation.
Luke Bolar, a spokesman for Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign, told the Advocate that the campaign did not raise the issue of pulling its advertising, calling Myers’ claim “1,000 percent false.” WVLA general manager Jim Baronet also told the Advocate that the campaign did not contact the station about advertising but declined to comment on the reasons for Myers’s termination, citing company policy. Representatives of WVLA and the Vitter campaign did not immediately respond to Gawker’s requests for comment.
Bolar alleged to the Advocate that Myers pushed a campaign volunteer during the exchange with Vitter, perhaps implying that the alleged violence may have been a cause of his firing. Myers denied this to Gawker. “Vitter’s people had accused us of assault—which obviously is not true,” he said. Myers claims that he and the station are in possession of a video of the confrontation that would exonerate him of any assault allegations, but that the station gave him “an unofficial cease-and-desist letter” instructing him not to publicize it.
Vitter, a Republican, was implicated in the “D.C. Madam” scandal in 2007 after the alleged prostitution ringleader Deborah Palfrey named him as a client. “This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter said in a statement at the time. He is currently among the frontrunners to succeed Bobby Jindal as Louisiana governor when the state holds its gubernatorial election in October.
We’ll update if and when we hear from WVLA or the Vitter campaign.