Fox Firing Raises Question of Internet Privacy

While many disagree with FoxCT firing of meteorologist Geoff Fox, his contract may have included a morals clause that dictated it.


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."

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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.

dmetnick November 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Fox is afraid of public ridicule? That's ridiculous. Why would a media deliver system with no morals whatsoever, fire someone over a morals clause. The mendacity and hypocrisy of FOX is what is ridiculous and deserves ridicule.
Linda C November 20, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Geoff Fox is Guilty, guilty of being STUPID to think Anything on-line is private. What Fox did, he did on his personal time and has NO bearing on anything other than his Marriage. None of WTIC's business. He wasn't caught having sex with this woman on company property. It would ONLY become a WORK related problem is the recipient of the emails or IM's filed a Sexual Harassment claim. Guess Fox would have been wise to file one against her, then they wouldn't be able to fire him. Big brother is in everyone business enough. Instead of begging and having his fans lose all respect for him, he should look into any legal ramifications he might have against WTIC for their quick and idiotic move. I say Idiotic because right or wrong, Fox is the ONLY weather person serving the New Haven Area that can correctly predict the weather BEFORE it happens. Unlike channel 8 who can give you a 24 hour blow by blow of WHAT JUST OCCURRED!! Bring him back WTIC, his wife will take care of the rest!
Kathleen Ramunni (Editor) November 20, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Does this situation make you more careful about what you're doing on the Internet?
Thomas Alegi November 20, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Unintended Consequences of Having a Facebook Account and or E-mail account. It the good old days before e-mails and Facebook, if a husband or wife thought their partner was cheating on them; they would hire a private detective to find the proof to support their suspicions. Today all the suspicious partner has to do is get the password to their partners Facebook account. With the Facebook password, there is no need to pay a private detective, what a cost saver this is for the suspicious partner. Facebook, E-mail Miranda Rights “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you write can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion, no matter who you are. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, to defend your Facebook and or E-mail stupidity your life will not weather the vindictiveness of others.”
Ted B November 20, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I've always told my kids -- be very careful what you do online so it doesn't come back to bite you in the butt. A lot of people don't realize that what you're writing now will be around forever. When you hit delete it doesn't necessarily erase it. If you know it's wrong, don't do it!
Tammid November 20, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Prime example of how our right to privacy does not exist. It woulda been another story if he did it company time. Fact that is what done on his time makes FoxCT look rediculous for forin him. Now because there of judgement i wom't watxh Foxct or bu the courant. Yea what he did was wrong. But its also. None of our business. That should be left for Helaine and Geofd to deal with. Foxct u lost a lot of viewers hope you like the bed youade.
Eric November 21, 2012 at 03:40 AM
For those of you that have employment agreements with your employer, take a closer look at them. Chances are there is a "moral" clause and/or other language related to the use of social media sites. Right or wrong, don't make an idiot of yourselves as Foxx did. What he did was wrong, a pervert nonetheless, glad I won't be seeing him on t.v. anymore but learn from his mistake. Chances are there will be more Foxx-Ups in the near future as employers enforce employment agreements.
Robin Hood November 21, 2012 at 01:41 PM
You do not need weather people on TV, they are annoying and generally talk about nothing while being wrong most of the time. Do what I do, I go to weatherunderground for radar and intellicast for long range forecasts etc AND THEN I MAKE MY OWN FORECAST ABOUT ME IN MY ACTUAL AREA!!! These people are paid to work you up into a frenzy and get you worried about nothing so you will stay tuned and the station can then charge more for commercials. They give a teaser at the begining and then 10 minutes in so you have to watch for a half hour, when they say there's a chance of rain or 30% chance it means nothing, it might rain from NY to Milford all day and be sunny and nice from Milford to RI, with the internet you can accurately make your own forecast yourself for where you and yours will be. They also cause stress and panic everytime it freaking snows, SNOW IS FROZEN RAIN, it is not a storm everytime it snows, you are being used to UP the profits at grocery stores and anyone who works one can tell you that everytime Geoff said SNOW STORM in the winter when it was only 1-2" they made tens of thousaands of dollars or more. It is not a storm without heavy accumulation and sustained winds, they just stress us all out. Make your own forecast when you want and need it and relax. http://www.intellicast.com/Local/Weather.aspx?location=USCT0034 http://www.wunderground.com/
Robin Hood November 21, 2012 at 01:44 PM
When Geoff or the others come on all day and say "will there be snow in the forecast???.....stay tuned at 5 to find out" their salespeople are working the customers for commercial time " Geoff is going on with a big snow storm story, do you want to buy commercial time? Its business, it is not weather.
Thomas Alegi November 21, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, Mr. Hood the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire is still after you. Mr. Hood, be very careful the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and his gang of weather sales people, are using their weather satellites to trick you in Sherwood Forest. You have exposed the secret underhand dealings of the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire to the common person; you have cut into the source of income of High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, need I say more. LOL
thomas November 21, 2012 at 05:52 PM
jeff needs to repent and chuck the heathen lifestyle.selah
JB December 01, 2012 at 03:13 AM
You're a moron. Learn how to spell. It's Geoff. Not Jeff.
JB December 01, 2012 at 03:15 AM
How is this a comment and funny? I don't find any of this a joke.
JB December 01, 2012 at 03:16 AM
What does it have to do with Geoff's firing though?
JB December 01, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Don't call him that. He made a mistake. We all do and he's human. We all are. all human and how do you even know he will mess up again? Do you live with him or anything? If not, I wouldn't judge him just because he made a mistake.
JB December 01, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Agree with you there.
RDE December 12, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Thanks! I do the same about weather info. And, I DO NOT run to the supermarket nor the Big Box hardware store every time a "weatherman" comes on TV to "big news" about the weather. About Geoff Fox demise ...it's his own doing because anyone with 1/2 a brain knows there is no such a thing as "privacy" on the internet. I'm sorry for his wife and daughter. I'm tired of adults acting like teenagers. I do not care for Fox CT, Fox News and it'll not make a difference in my life.
RDE December 12, 2012 at 04:12 PM
It is very very fanny: someone does something stupid ...get found...lose job... And the solution is "to repent"? How about old fashion discernment on what is right and wrong? Tired of people apologizing for bad behavior. The question is: why they do it! Because they think they can do it and that they'll not get cote... So...leave with the consequences. If Mr. Geoff Fox is a good professional, he can do other things on the internet that can provide him with good income. Hope he gets his life together. Best wishes!


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