A Baton Rouge television reporter was fired Tuesday several hours after a confrontation with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, and he claimed later that he lost his job because Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign threatened to pull its ads from the station.
Reporter Derek Myers confronted Vitter about his 2007 admission that he had committed a “very serious sin” in connection with a prostitution ring several years earlier.
A Vitter campaign spokesman and the station’s general manager said nobody from the campaign called the station and threatened to pull the ads.
Tuesday’s confrontation took place in the parking lot of the Secretary of State’s office after Vitter signed the papers to qualify for the governor’s race. Myers, 23, attempted to question Vitter as the senator was walking to a waiting car with his wife, Wendy. Vitter ignored Myers’ questions.
In an interview with The Advocate on Wednesday, Myers said he believed he was fired because the Vitter campaign threatened to pull its campaign commercials from NBC 33/Fox 44 News. He said he reached this conclusion because of a conversation that was overheard in the newsroom Tuesday.
Luke Bolar, Vitter’s spokesman, said no one from the campaign contacted the station about the ads, calling the allegation “1,000 percent false.”
Jim Baronet, the station’s general manager, also said no one from the Vitter campaign contacted the station about ads. Baronet also said that company personnel rules prevented him from discussing why Myers was fired.
Bolar acknowledged calling Myers to raise questions about what happened in the parking lot. Bolar said he asked Myers whether he had coordinated his questions with a political opponent. Myers said he asked his own questions.
Bolar also said he had heard that Myers had pushed one of the Vitter volunteers who were attempting to shield the senator from the reporter. Myers said he did not push anybody.
Myers offered to put Bolar in touch with Myers’ boss after Bolar said he wanted to see video of the confrontation, but Bolar said in an interview that he did not follow up on the offer.
Myers arrived in Baton Rouge three weeks ago after working for the ABC news affiliate in Ocala, Florida. Originally from Ohio, Myers said he takes pride in his aggressive style. His Twitter account says he is nicknamed “bulldog” in the newsroom.
“I’m a hard-hitting journalist who likes sharing people’s stories,” Myers said in the interview.
The four major gubernatorial candidates all qualified on Tuesday and then took questions from reporters for several minutes afterward.
Myers asked Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne how long he had been acting governor this year given Gov. Bobby Jindal’s frequent absences.
Myers asked Vitter about complaints that he has been holding field hearings for his Senate committee in Louisiana to boost his gubernatorial campaign.
In the parking lot afterward, Myers scurried after Vitter to ask whether he was still frequenting prostitutes and also asked, “Sen. Vitter, don’t you think the people deserve answers?”
Myers was reluctant to discuss what happened on the record but felt that his hand was forced after the state Democratic Party spokesman, Beau Tidwell, posted a Tweet on Wednesday morning saying he understood that a reporter had lost his job and asked who it might be.
Myers said he called Tidwell to confirm that it was him.
Myers thought the Democratic Party was preparing a statement Wednesday to report on what happened, but Tidwell said the party had no plans to do so.
Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter @TegBridges. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.