Sports anchor suspended for anti-Trump tweet, fired for joke about female colleague

A TV sports anchor who was once suspended for an anti-Trump tweet is out of a job after his career went into limbo when a colleague reportedly lodged a complaint with management against him for a disparaging on-the-air comment.

Chicago’s ABC TV affiliate, WLS-Channel 7 (ABC7), previously put longtime sportscaster Mark Giangreco, who developed a reputation for sarcasm, on administrative leave in late January following an on-air remark that month that landed him on thin ice, as it were.

“Giangreco, 68, had been off the air since Jan. 28, when he jokingly referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as someone who could ‘play the ditzy, combative interior decorator’ as part of a fictional DIY Network show. Burton complained to management, which took Giangreco off the newscast,” the Chicago Sun Times reported. “Combined with Giangreco’s previous transgressions, his latest appears to have been the tipping point.”

The Times also speculated that the channel will pay him for his contract, which still has a year and a half to run.

Media columnist Robert Feder provided further context. “A recording of the 10 p.m. newscast that night showed Giangreco wrapping up a story about Canadian hockey star Spencer Jenkin painting his house while on roller skates and saying: ‘Gotta get him a show on DIY Network. We’ll call it ‘House Fix with Sticks,’ and Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator. I got it all worked out.'”

“It’s unlikely those words alone would have cost Giangreco his job, but in light of his disciplinary record that included three prior suspensions for comments or tweets deemed inappropriate, the latest incident proved fatal in the current corporate climate, according to all accounts,” Feder wrote separately.

“Colleagues said Burton had felt disrespected by Giangreco for years and took his ‘ditzy, combative’ joke as another personal slight,” Feder added, “Whether intended or not, directing those words at her evoked sexist and racist stereotypes about Black women, they said.”

In February, 2017, WLS suspended Giangreco for referring in a subsequently deleted tweet to the U.S. as “a country full of simpletons” for electing “cartoon lunatic” Donald Trump as president.

On another occasion, he reportedly suggested that Fox News should be rebranded as “Nazi News.”

In 1999, he made fun of the physical appearance of Walter Payton before he knew the NFL Hall of Famer was suffering from liver cancer. This gaffe prompted profuse apologies.

Giangreco’s separation ends a 27-year run at WLS. Prior to that, he worked at NBC5 in Chicago for about 12 years.

“Mark Giangreco, who has been as influential on the Chicago sports scene as the athletes he’s covered, is moving on to a new chapter…I want to thank Mark for his many contributions to ABC 7 and our viewers. I’m sure you will all join me in wishing him the very best,” noted ABC7 President and General Manager John Idler last Friday in an email to employees about the sports anchor who was off the air for about six weeks and whose absence was never officially explained to the public.

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Robert Jonathan

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