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Bay Area news anchor suspended after trying to include tagline on murdered women of color in Gabby Petito coverage

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 9/27/2021 Theresa Braine

A Fox affiliate news anchor in the Bay Area has been pulled off the air after he tried to add a tagline to his report on the homicide of Gabby Petito, noting the lack of coverage of many cases of missing and murdered women of color.

A spat between KTVU-TV news anchor Frank Somerville, 63, and news director Amber Eikel, The Mercury News reported, was to blame. As KTVU was preparing an update on Petito’s case, Eikel reportedly nixed a request by Somerville, who is the adoptive father of a Black teen daughter, to include a tagline noting the outsize coverage when white women go missing as compared to that of missing and murdered women of color and indigenous people.

Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country trip in a converted camper van with her boyfriend. Authorities say a body discovered Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming, is believed to be Petito. © Provided by New York Daily News Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country trip in a converted camper van with her boyfriend. Authorities say a body discovered Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming, is believed to be Petito.

Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country trip in a converted camper van with her boyfriend. Authorities say a body discovered Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming, is believed to be Petito.

Station officials told Somerville the tagline was inappropriate, The Mercury News said, and he had reportedly pushed back. The next day he learned he was suspended.


Video: Body of Gabby Petito identified (ABC News)

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Dubbed “missing white women syndrome” years ago by the journalist Gwen Ifill, the trend seemed in full swing as the nation’s attention was riveted by news of the 22-year-old’s disappearance while on a cross-country trip with her fiancé, followed by the discovery of her body at the couple’s campsite in Grand Teton National Park.

The fiancé, Brian Laundrie, is now missing, and investigators including Dog the Bounty Hunter are seeking him in a Florida nature reserve. Coverage of Petito’s death has even reached across the pond to the U.K., which just a few months earlier had highlighted the case of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive murdered by a cop who confessed.

In her show “The Reid Out,” Joy Reid invoked Ifill’s term, which the late “PBS Newshour” anchor coined in 2004.

Many experts, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, have documented the disparity in coverage.

Somerville had only just returned to the air in August from a weeks-long suspension imposed when he slurred words and had an apparent meltdown during a broadcast in May.

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