(Photo: Brian Stelter/Twitter)
The TV news business can eat even the hardiest soul alive. Your average local newsroom, in particular, is a place so overflowing with stupidity, incompetence and the gargantuan sense of self-importance necessary to deny all that stupidity and incompetence that submerging yourself in it day after day can drive you nuts. 41-year-old Phillip Perea certainly saw himself as the victim of a news department's pettiness and cruelty, which is what reportedly led him to stand outside of the News Corp building in New York City this morning -- better known as Fox News HQ -- pull a gun and shoot himself in the chest. Perea was an ex-employee of Fox News's owned and operated station in Austin, a promotions producer who'd been recently fired for cause, and he blamed the station's corporate mothership for ruining his life.
Given that it was such a sad and desperate act, it would be nice to be able to say that Perea really was a little guy ground to dust by the gears of a merciless media entity, but unfortunately the online trail he leaves behind shows that it wasn't the news business that drove him crazy -- he was pretty far down that road long before he ran afoul of Fox News's Television Stations division.
According to Fox, Perea had been a promotions producer for ten months at Fox 7 KTCB in Austin before being fired in June of last year. After his dismissal, he took a series of recordings he'd secretly made of his interactions with his managers to the Austin Chronicle, claiming they showed how he was railroaded. He went on to post those audio clips on YouTube, narrating them -- 35 in all -- in a series he called "The American Workplace Bully: How FOX News Ended My Career."
The clips would seem to indicate that Perea had been a semi-regular visitor to GM Mike Lewis's office, where he was reprimanded more than a few times. In the audio clip labeled No. 1, Perea is heard being suspended not only because he pawned his work off on a network producer in an effort to supposedly see if his immediate supervisor would correct it -- he accused her of being arbitrary in changing his writing -- but also because other employees at the station were "starting to fear (him)." The recording shows that after being accused of the work scam, Perea filed a 100 page rebuttal -- and you can hear how exasperated Lewis sounds with the entire experience of dealing with Perea but likewise how carefully he's treading, because he realizes he might have a time bomb on his hands.
Again, there are 34 more of these.
With Lewis claiming to have passed the whole mess onto corporate, once he was fired Phillip Perea aimed his wrath at Fox News HQ. He tried on Twitter to enlist the help of Fox News employees like Bill O'Reilly and really anyone who'd take up his cause, finally tweeting a picture of his wallet last Thursday to show his desperation.
All of that led to Monday morning, with witnesses saying that Perea was standing outside of the News Corp building on 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan crying and handing out fliers to anyone who would take one. He claimed Fox News had destroyed him. He shot himself just after 9am and was declared dead at Bellevue not long after. Police say he had a suicide note next to him.
Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy confirmed the suicide and sent a memo out to the Fox News staff, which read in part:
"This morning, a former employee at FOX 7-KTBC (Austin) committed suicide outside FOX Television Stations' (FTS) headquarters in New York City. He was employed at our Austin television station for ten months and has not been with the station or FTS since June 2014. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy."
Not exactly dripping with poetic sincerity, but what can really be expected?
I'm the last one to criticize someone who was barely keeping it together and whose internal anguish caused him to take his own life. But I also understand the crisis the managers of KTCB faced with Phillip Perea. While I have no doubt some of Perea's complaints were valid -- because, again, local news -- Mike Lewis and his managerial staff almost certainly knew they were dealing with a potential threat to every single person in the building. Perea had to be handled delicately, like human nitro glycerine, and if there really were complaints from employees about being afraid of him those had to be taken very seriously. It's easy to see why Perea had to be let go. But that doesn't mean we can't feel very sorry for him.
Coincidentally, his job is apparently available.