The public has spoken via social media, and although the towing company at the center of the controversy may have forgiven Britt McHenry, the public is not satisfied with the punishment meted out by ESPN against their disgraced reporter. Although ESPN suspended her on Thursday after video of an insult-laden, personal tirade she directed at an Arlington, Va., towing company employee went viral, petitions are springing up which call for the reporter to be fired from the sports media empire.
One Change.org petition had garnered 4,000 signatures by Friday afternoon. Another petition, which had gathered 750 signatures as of Friday afternoon, connected their desire for McHenry’s termination to a campaign against bullying. Still another petition called for the disgraced reporter’s termination not only from ESPN, but also from ABC News, the Hearst Corporation and the Walt Disney Company, in addition to any other employers of the sports reporter. Over on Twitter, the hashtag #firebrittmchenry has exploded, and the 28-year-old was the number one trending topic on Google News for a good portion of Friday.
The video shows a furious McHenry berating the employee and hurling personal insults about her appearance in an expletive-laced tirade. At one point during the confrontation, the sports reporter tells the worker to “Lose some weight, baby girl.” In addition, McHenry brags about her education and her job as a reporter and also threatens to sue the company.
Although the ESPN employee issued an apology after the video went viral, many people were not convinced of her remorse or her feelings of regret, and were not prepared to forgive. In her apology, McHenry blames the stress and intensity of the moment for causing her to lose her cool at the towing company and to say “some insulting and regrettable things.” She adds that she will use the situation as a learning experience, saying she “should always choose to be respectful and take the high road.” The apology did not satisfy the public, who continues to call for the firing of the reporter.
In reaction to the apology of McHenry, the Brevard County Manatees, a minor league baseball team, has extended an invitation to the reporter to give a speech against bullying. The organization says that due to her actions on the video, they would like her to speak about bullying and the lessons she has learned from this experience, as well as to provide “a message beyond a Twitter apology.”
A recent post on a Facebook page claiming to be McHenry’s urged everyone to be kind to each other, and to “be nice” to people, advising her followers that “negative words” carry an enormous impact. The March 29 post is being ridiculed in light of the video which shows the reporter launching quite a few of those “negative words” at the towing company employee.
Although there is a growing backlash on social media calling for McHenry to be fired, the company which towed her car, Advanced Towing, has not joined the chorus. On Friday, the company released a statement saying that it was not their wish that the reporter be fired or suspended in light of the fact that “she is human” and susceptible to making poor decisions “in the heat of the moment.”
The tow company’s statement also refers to the employee to whom McHenry directed her insults and fury. They describe her as “a single mother of three children who works a difficult job to provide her family.” According to the company, the employee, Gina, has forgiven the reporter and harbors no bad feelings toward McHenry. The public, however, has extended no such goodwill for McHenry, and continues to call for her to be fired.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Image by Keith Allison cropped for size – Flickr License