Nearly a year after a dramatic DUI incident in downtown Oakland that was caught on camera, and 18 months after he first disappeared from the anchor desk at KTVU, former station anchor Frank Somerville is now talking publicly about the addiction issues and psychological state that in part brought an end to his days at KTVU.
After serving as anchor of the Bay Area's most-watched news broadcast for the last decade-plus, Somerville was the subject of widespread speculation following an on-camera incident over Memorial Day Weekend 2021. Somerville appeared slightly bewildered on camera and stumbled as he tried to read from a teleprompter, slurring some of his words. He quickly disappeared from the air and co-anchor Julie Haener finished the broadcast on her own, and without explanation, Haener anchored alone or with other guest anchors for the next several months.
Somerville reappeared at the anchor desk in August, without making any real explanation for his hiatus. But he did tell a local media blag that he had mistakenly taken an Ambien pill before the broadcast.
He would then depart from the station again less than two months later following an apparent disagreement with the news director. The disagreement was specifically about him wanting to highlight the phenomenon of "missing white woman syndrome" and the Gabby Petito case — suggesting that this context be given during the broadcast, in order to bring attention to the many missing-persons cases involving victims of color that do not get much attention.
Then, on December 30, there was the very public DUI incident in which he rammed his Porsche into another car, pushing it across an intersection — and the whole thing seemed like a cry for help, or a rock bottom.
He is standing by the Ambien story with regard to the first incident, but he admits that he had been self-medicating with alcohol and prescription drugs during the summer of 2021.
"I couldn’t leave work at work," Somerville writes. "Instead I took it home and obsessed about it. It started with me going to seven funerals for young black men and women who were killed on the streets on Oakland."
Somerville says he became obsessed with the idea that he should show up for the families of these shooting victims, to show that KTVU cared and that the deaths were not just "another number." But, this impacted his own mental health, he says, and "The problem was I didn’t feel I had anywhere to go or anyone to talk to."
Speaking to the Chronicle, Somerville says he's incredibly embarassed and ashamed about the DUI, for which he has mostly paid his penance through community service.
"I was so depressed and sad that night, it turned me into a zombie,” Somerville told The Chronicle on Monday, recalling how he left his home intending to stop at a nearby Taco Bell, and had no memory of the crash.
“I don’t even know how I got out of my parking lot [that night],” he tells the Chronicle. “I literally was kind of blacked out. I’m grateful that I didn’t hurt anybody, but regardless of that, I was completely in the wrong.”
Somerville says he was on his way to get some Taco Bell when the crash happened.
Now, he says, he has quit drinking and only takes one medication — presumably the Ambien — for insomnia.
And he'd like a new anchor job, either in town or in another market.
"I’ve NEVER been in trouble with the law and I never will be again," he said on Facebook. "This dui will not define me."
"I’m a damn good anchor and everyone knows that," he adds. "I’ve always believed in second chances and that’s what I’m asking for now."