Should a public person lose their job over a private indiscretion?
No, according to a survey of Hamden residents.
When the news got out that WTIC FoxCT fired meteorologist Geoff Fox Friday over a series of private Facebook messages of a sexual nature between him and a woman, many of his fans were outraged.
And on Monday, several surveyed in his hometown of Hamden said they not only disagreed with the station's decision but also would no longer watch the news broadcast because of it.
"I don't care what he does in his personal life, I want him to tell me what the weather is going to be, and I've been watching him do the weather for many years," said Bob Richardson, 61, a retired mechanic and lifelong Hamden resident. "I don't agree at all with them firing him, and I think it's a damn shame that he won't be on the air now because of it.
"I guess people aren't allowed to have any privacy anymore," he said. "It's nobody's business what he's doing except for his wife. It's not something he should lose his job over."
"Yes, he was wrong, but it's none of our business," agreed Maria Payne, 37, a stay-at-home mom of three. "I don't agree at all" with his termination, she said.
Lisa Bennett, 27, a UCONN graduate student, said she hadn't heard about the termination, but when informed of the circumstances, said she didn't feel what he did warranted his firing.
"If he's emailing someone on his own time, I don't see why it is a problem," she said. "Well, it's a problem for his family, of course, but other than that, really it's not anyone else's business."
Interested in Hamden's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Hamden Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
But it's likely that Fox has a morals clause in his contract that called for his termination in just such a situation, said Quinnipiac University Journalism Prof. Rich Hanley.
"Once [the emails] became public, they had no choice" if there was a morals clause in his contract, and many in his position have morals clauses" Hanley said. "Once that sort of behavior is posted, it violated the policy and is cause for dismissal."
The television station has to protect its brand, Hanley said. "They have to protect themselves from public ridicule," he said.
Calls to WTIC were not returned Monday.
The private emails were sent over Facebook over a period of several months and were obtained by a third party who posted them on a website earlier this month. The publication of the emails prompted the station to fire Fox on Friday.
On Sunday, Geoff Fox posted an apology on his blog and issued a plea to his former employers for them to reconsider his termination. But it's not likely that they will take him back, Hanley said.
"I think he recognized what happened and apologized for it and wanted another chance, and that is a natural response," Hanley said. "I don't know what Fox 61 will do -- the vast majority of viewers don't know why he was fired, so perhaps they will reconsider, but I doubt it very much."
The bottom line is, anyone who engages on the Internet should understand that what seems to be private is never private, Hanley said.
"Understand that the first rule of the Internet is that there is no privacy," he said. As in Geoff Fox's case, a private Facebook message can't be considered private because you don't know what the recipient will do with the messages, he said.
"And if you are a public figure, you ought to be extra cautious about what you post," he said.