Anchorman Leon Harris of WJLA TV in Washington, D.C. -- where Fox News reporter Doug McKelway worked until earlier this year -- said he believed McKelway might have wanted to get fired from the station so he could go to a conservative outlet.
"His last couple of years had left a lot of people inside scratching their heads wondering where he was coming from," Harris, a former CNN anchorman, said Sunday. "It seemed like to me from where I sat he was looking like someone who was trying to find a way to be fired. He may have found that he loves conservative bias news coverage and conservative talk and that is where he wanted to be and he might have found a way to get to it."
McKelway, who recently signed on to work in Fox News' D.C. bureau, drew attention earlier this year at WJLA for a controversial news report about a demonstration against oil company contributions to government. In that report, he wrongly claimed that Barack Obama had received the largest campaign contribution ever from BP.
Soon after that report was broadcast, McKelway was suspended following a meeting with WJLA News Director Bill Lord, and later fired. WJLA has said only that McKelway was fired for "insubordination and misconduct," but some staffers told The Washington Post he had gotten into an argument with Lord.
McKelway was hired by Fox News last week.
Lord has declined to comment on the issue and neither McKelway nor Fox has responded to requests for comment.
Last week, several WJLA staffers offered criticisms of McKelway to Media Matters. Harris added to their thoughts, noting that it appeared to him McKelway wanted to take his talents to a place where he could express his conservative views.
"For him to go off the way that he did was almost like somebody trying to pick a fight," Harris added. "The scuttlebutt in the newsroom was 'I wonder if he's got a deal worked out at Fox or talk radio,' the two places we'd thought he'd land. It seemed as though he was trying to orchestrate his own firing."
About the BP story, Harris stated: "I was shocked because he didn't seem like the professional we all thought he was and he seemed like a guy looking for his YouTube moment. If he had an ulterior motive to either go to Fox or get out of his contract or go to talk radio, if I were cynic, that looks and sounds like a guy who has plans to try to get out of his current job to get to another one."
"I know what it looks like when a guy wants to get fired."
Harris also cited an interview on May 7, 2009, that McKelway did on WJLA's Let's Talk Live, with filmmaker and blogger Mike Rogers, who had set about outing gay politicians.
During the segment, McKelway threatened Rogers, saying "I'm about ready to do a lot more than point my finger at you.... I'd take you outside and give you a punch across the face..."
"It was so over the line, it made folks in the newsroom say, 'what the heck is he talking about?'" Harris said. "If you watch how far he goes out of his way to work it into a conservative talk radio type of a rant.
"It wasn't like it was slightly over the line; he jumped over the line with both feet and a pole vault. It was almost as if the guy just snapped. He may have legitimately snapped or it was an orchestrated thing where he decided he would like to do talk radio rather than legitimate news coverage."