Longtime KTVU anchor Frank Somerville, who's been off the air since being suspended by management in September over a disagreement about the coverage of the Gabby Petito case, is speaking out and telling the press that he doesn't expect he'll be back at the station — and also, no one from the station or Fox has even bothered contacting him.
Somerville spoke this morning to local media hound Rich Lieberman — who said Somerville was speaking to him exclusively but very quickly Somerville gave quotes to the Mercury News and the Chronicle — saying that he's all but certain he won't ever be at the anchor desk again at KTVU.
"No one at the station — Fox/KTVU — has contacted me. So, I'm assuming I've done my last newscast," Somerville said. He noted that his contract is up in January, so it seems like the management is just waiting that out.
What Somerville did that was so wrong is less clear. Earlier this year, Somerville disappeared from the air without explanation after a fairly strange Memorial Day Weekend broadcast in which he was slurring words and seemed unable to read the teleprompter. Somerville later excused that saying he had mistakenly taken an Ambien before going on the air.
But he wouldn't be back on the air until August, and then within weeks, this controversy erupted behind the scenes about the Petito case. Somerville, who has a mixed-race daughter, wanted to make a statement at the end of a segment regarding "missing white woman syndrome," a term coined by the late Gwen Ifill about American media's obsession with the disappearance of young, pretty Caucasian women, when very little national attention is given to the thousands of people of color who go missing every year.
Reportedly, Somerville butted heads with KTVU News Director Amber Eikel over the addition of this "tag" that Somerville wanted to say on air, with Eikel saying that the topic deserved separate coverage at a later date. But a shortened version of the tag made it into the script for that evening's broadcast, which allegedly prompted Somerville's suspension for insubordination.
Following the suspension and subsequent social media attention, two rallies were held in support of Somerville outside KTVU headquarters in Oakland. These rallies were followed by the City of San Leandro issuing an official proclamation honoring Somerville "for speaking out about missing women of color and setting an example of strength and equity to our community and those worldwide."
Now, though, Somerville appears to be putting it out there that he's looking for a job.
"I still want to continue working,” Somerville tells the Mercury News. “I would love to work at one of the other stations in the market. If not, I’ll go to other stations outside of the market."
He adds, "It makes me really sad, because I’ve given 31 years to the station. I helped make ‘Mornings on 2’ the No. 1 newscast in the market. I also helped make the noon and 5 p.m. newscasts No. 1."
"My guess is that I’m not coming back to Channel 2,” Somerville tells the Chronicle. “That’s just a guess. But I have no reason to think otherwise."
Neither Fox nor KTVU has made any official statement on the matter.
In related news, CNN is reckoning with its Petito coverage and just took up a local missing-persons case involving Arianna Fitts, a Bay Area girl who is black, and who went missing in 2016 at the age of 2. She'd now be 8 years old, and her case got little national attention at the time and she remains unaccounted for.