KTLA news anchor Mark Mester was fired on Thursday afternoon, days after being suspended following an off-script segment about the abrupt departure of his co-anchor Lynette Romero, according to multiple employees at the station.
Newsroom general manager Janene Drafs announced the dismissal with a brief speech at a meeting in the newsroom at around 1:15 p.m., saying: “[Mester] is no longer at KTLA5,” staffers who were on hand for the announcement told The Times on Thursday.
KTLA’s website no longer lists Mester on its list of reporters and anchors.
Last week, KTLA announced that Romero, a longtime anchor of KTLA’s popular weekend morning show, left the station without saying goodbye to viewers, sparking widespread outrage and criticism.
“After 24 years, Lynette Romero has decided to no longer host our weekend morning news,” Pete Saiers, the station’s news director, wrote in a statement read by entertainment reporter Sam Rubin. during a September 14 segment.
“We really wanted her to stay, and KTLA management worked hard to make that happen,” Rubin added. “Lynette has decided to leave for another opportunity. We had hoped that she would record a farewell message to the viewers, but she declined. Lynette has been a wonderful member of the KTLA family and we wish her and her family, the best.”
According to station sources who asked to remain anonymous, Romero no longer wanted to work weekends and had asked management to work an anchor position on weekdays so she could spend more time with her family. but was told there was no opening. She was reportedly hired at another local TV station, sources said.
On Saturday’s weekend morning show, Mester, Romero’s co-anchor, left the script with an emotional speech. He apologized, on behalf of the station, to viewers, saying the handling of Romero’s exit “was rude, cruel, inappropriate and we’re so sorry for that.”
He then apologized to Romero, whom he called “his best friend”.
“You didn’t deserve this, it was a mistake and we hope you find the courage in your hearts to forgive us,” Mester said, his voice cracking at times, in a monologue that lasted more than four minutes alongside of three of his colleagues.
Many viewers had applauded Mester’s off-the-cuff message, but shortly after his defense of Romero, Mester was suspended, drawing even more criticism for KTLA’s handling of the situation.
However, newsroom employees spoke of a different scenario and alleged that Mester breached their trust.
Staff members said the producers wrote a script for Mester to read to fire Romero, along with photos and clips from his shows. He had also rented a plane with a banner to fly over the station with the message: “We love you Lynette”. Mester had offered producers to include footage of the aircraft in the segment, but was turned down.
Mester did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.