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News anchor who wanted to discuss ‘missing white woman syndrome during Petito coverage is suspended

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A San Francisco-area news anchor has been ‘suspended indefinitely’ after reportedly arguing with the station’s news director over media coverage of the Gabby Petito case.

Three-time Emmy winner Frank Somerville, 63, wanted to add a ‘brief tagline’ at the end of a KTVU report to discuss ‘missing white woman syndrome’.

The term, coined by late journalist Gwen Ifill, refers to how missing young, white, women are given more media coverage than minority groups and men.

Somerville, who is the adoptive father of a black teen daughter, wanted to question the amount of coverage devoted to ‘van life’ woman Petito after the 22-year-old’s body was found in a Wyoming campsite last week, according to the Mercury News.

But news director Amber Eikel reportedly told him that his suggested tagline was ‘inappropriate’ – an assertion that sources told the newspaper he pushed back on. 

There’s no word on how heated the disagreement got, but the anchor was suspended indefinitely the following day, the Mercury News said.

KTVU did not immediately respond to emails or calls from DailyMail.com. Somerville did not immediately respond to Facebook messages and emails.

Frank Somerville, 63

KTVU News Director Amber Eikel

Frank Somerville, 63, has been ‘suspended indefinitely’ from his his job at the Bay Area’s KTVU after reportedly arguing with news director Amber Eikel, right, about Gabby Petito coverage

Petito was reported missing 10 days after her fiancée returned home from a cross-country road trip without her on September 1. She has since been found dead in a Wyoming campsite

Petito was reported missing 10 days after her fiancée returned home from a cross-country road trip without her on September 1. She has since been found dead in a Wyoming campsite

The suspension comes just six weeks after he returned to the desk following a May 30 incident in which he slurred his words live on air.

Several people have criticized the media blitz that has followed the case Petito, who vanished on a cross-country road trip with her fiancée Brian Laundrie.

Laundrie returned to their shared home in Florida without her on September 1, and her family reported her missing two weeks ago on September 11. 

Laundrie, 23, is now missing himself and remains a person of interest in the case. The FBI issued a warrant for his arrest on Thursday.

On Monday, MSNBC host Joy Reid slammed the media’s fascination with the story.

‘It goes without saying that no family should ever have to endure that kind of pain,’ Reid said on her show The ReidOut.

‘But the way this story has captivated the nation has many wondering – why not the same media attention when people of color go missing?’

‘Well, the answer actually has a name,’ the newscaster continued, ‘missing white woman syndrome.’

Reid also suggested that missing women of color are not paid attention to as much by the public because of their appearance, and that they do not look like the daughters or granddaughters of newsroom executives. 

On Monday, MSNBC host Joy Reid criticized the 'missing white woman syndrome' that she says has driven media interest in the case of 22-year-old Petito

On Monday, MSNBC host Joy Reid criticized the ‘missing white woman syndrome’ that she says has driven media interest in the case of 22-year-old Petito

The FBI has since released an arrest warrant for her fiancée, Brian Laundrie, who is missing

The FBI has since released an arrest warrant for her fiancée, Brian Laundrie, who is missing

The incident comes just six weeks after Somerville was off the air for nine weeks following a May 30 incident where he slurred his words live on air

The incident comes just six weeks after Somerville was off the air for nine weeks following a May 30 incident where he slurred his words live on air

The FBI had over 89,000 active missing person cases at the end of 2020, and 45 percent of those were people of color, according to ABC News. 

Only one-fifth of missing person cases involving minorities are covered in the news, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

Somerville interned at KTVU while he was attending San Francisco State University in 1981, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

He became co-anchor of the station’s highly rated Mornings on 2 show in 1992 and was named anchor of Channel 2 News at 5 when it launched in April 2005, according to the newspaper. 

On May 30, he appeared to slur his words and struggled to read from a teleprompter during a news broadcast. 

He was off the air for nine weeks after a spokesperson for Fox, the network that owns and operates KTVU, announced that Somerville would take an indefinite leave of absence to ‘focus on his health.’

Timeline of missing Gabby Petito’s case

  • July 1: Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie left Blue Point, New York for a cross-country road trip
  • August 12: Police in Moab, Utah respond to a domestic incident involving the couple
  • Aug. 21: Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, has his last FaceTime video call with his daughter who was in Salt Lake City, Utah 
  • Aug. 24: Petito is last seen at a hotel in Salt Lake City with Laundrie
  • Aug. 25: Petito makes final call to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, saying she was in Grand Teton National Park
  • Aug. 25 or 26: The couple chats with the owner of a shop called ‘Rustic Row’ in Victor, Utah for about 20 minutes 
  • Aug. 27: Video of Petito’s van was taken by blogger Jenn Bethune, of Red White & Bethune, around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground
  • Aug. 29: The day that Wisconsin TikToker Miranda Baker claimed that she and her boyfriend were approached by Laundrie at Grand Teton National Park and asked them for a ride at 5.30pm; Schmidt says she is not entertaining this claim and believes it possibly factual
  • Aug. 30: Schmidt receives the last text from Petito: ‘No service in Yosemite’
  • Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida in a van without Petito
  • Sept. 11: Schmidt reports Petito missing to authorities in New York; Petito and Laundrie’s van was impounded by police in Florida that same day
  • Sept. 12: Grand Teton National Park rangers search for Petito
  • Sept. 14: Laundrie issues a statement about Petito’s disappearance through his lawyer; Also on this day, Laundrie allegedly left his parents’ home for a hike
  • Sept. 15: Laundrie is officially named a person of interest in Petito’s case
  • Sept. 17: Laundrie family attorney confirms his whereabouts are unknown
  • Sept. 18: North Port police and the FBI start searching the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for missing Brian Laundrie
  • Sept. 19: Bethune realizes she has video of Petito’s van around 12am and submits the FBI with the footage 10 minutes later; Officials announce a body was found near Grand Teton National Park that matched Petito’s description in the afternoon
  • Sept. 21: Coroner confirms remains found in Grand Tetons belong to Petito. Her death is ruled a homicide but her cause of death is still under invesetigation
  • Sept. 20 – 22: FBI and North Port police continue search for Laundrie in Carton Reserve 
  • Sept. 22: Neighbors say they saw the Laudrie family pack up their detached camper on the day Gabby was reported missing. DailyMail.com photos show the camper was back in the driveway two days later, on September 13 

 



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