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TV anchor, meteorologists quit over vaccine mandate

CBS News logo CBS News 10/7/2021 Kate Gibson
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A news anchor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and a meteorologist in Nebraska are among a handful of Gray Television employees to relinquish their jobs instead of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

An 18-year employee, Meggan Gray gave up her co-hosting role on WLOX-TV's "Good Morning Mississippi" last Thursday, a day before a mandate to be fully immunized took effect on October 1, according to a local newspaper, the Sun Herald.

The Biloxi-based station's parent, Gray Television, was requiring all employees, guests, contractors and tenants to be fully vaccinated against the virus, Gray posted on Facebook. "I tried everything possible to keep my job, including offering to be tested on a weekly basis. My requests were denied," she wrote.

"I may have lost my job, but I preserved my integrity," she added.

WLOX General Manager Rick Williams told the Sun Herald he could not comment on a personnel matter. His email included a statement from Gray Television saying its vaccination policy is meant to ensure a safe work environment and that exceptions were limited to "certain medical conditions and or religious objections."

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The policy also led to the ouster of meteorologist Tim Jones at another Gray Television station in Hastings, Nebraska. Jones took to YouTube to decry getting fired from the job he'd held for nearly eight years.

"The whole thing sucks, but bigger and better things ahead," Jones told viewers in the video he dedicated to "fellow coworkers who also lost their jobs from this unfair policy." 

Similar words were voiced by Dave Platta, a sports anchor booted from an ABC affiliate in Columbus, Georgia. 

"My departure was not my choice. It was also not the choice of WTVM. This came from an edict from Gray Television," Platta, on the job 36 years, stated.

"WTVM will miss Dave Platta and we appreciate his many contributions to the station's success," the station said in a story about his departure on its website.

In addition to Jones, Gray and Platta, two other Gray employees have gone public about their dismissals due to their refusals to get vaccinated, including 14-year employee Linda Simmons, a reporter in Springfield, Missouri, and Karl Bohnak, a meteorologist in Marquette, Michigan.

"I value the freedom we all have to make our own informed decisions," Simmons said on Facebook. She also defended her decision not to get vaccinated in a radio interview, saying "I truly believe God was showing me reasons that I didn't need to get it," according to an account in the Kansas City Star.

Simmons said she was among three people at her station who were terminated over the policy. 

In a lengthy Facebook post, Bohnak, 68, said he mistrusted "these injections," writing that his own chances of dying from COVID-19 were minuscule and that he was unwilling to "risk serious side effects" of the vaccine. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death from COVID-19 and represent the best means of curtailing a virus that has killed more than 700,000 Americans. Serious side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare, the CDC said.

Atlanta-based Gray Television, which owns and operates television stations in more than 100 markets, did not respond to a request for comment from CBS MoneyWatch. The company employs around 6,900 people, according to estimates.

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