Mayor’s Office of Communications
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 2500 • Atlanta, Georgia 30303
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2017
Reed Administration Response to Fox 5 News Story by Dale Russell
Statement by Director of Communications Anne Torres
ATLANTA – "Fox 5’s Dale Russell is simply not telling the truth.
Last night, he reported that Mayor Kasim Reed had avoided addressing the media at a public event last week. This is false. Mayor Reed took several questions from reporters, but Russell wanted to create a scene which he could use to sensationalize his story. He chose to ambush Mayor Reed when he emerged from his vehicle. He then followed the Mayor walking up to and following the news conference, which was organized to announce a new anti-displacement program to protect seniors and homeowners on the Westside.
Russell’s story originally ran during the 10 p.m. broadcast on April 19, and Russell stated multiple times that the Mayor refused to speak to him for the story. Dale Russell failed to acknowledge the fact that Mayor Reed had addressed him that very morning during a live in-studio appearance at V-103, on the Ryan Cameron Morning Show with Wanda Smith. In fact, Mayor Reed asked that he debate him live on television, and in a demonstration of transparency, offered to put his tax returns and sources of income on the table, side by side. Mayor Reed has received no response from Russell or Fox 5.
Even though Dale Russell’s behavior was more appropriate for TMZ than a reputable news organization, Mayor Reed still responded to his questions. Dale Russell and his producers at Fox 5 chose to mute the sound to save themselves from embarrassment, because Mayor Reed asked him to affirmatively state, on the record, that he is not paid by third parties to pursue stories against Mayor Reed and the Administration. Russell refused to answer the question, instead stating that he is “not a public official.” But he is a public figure. Fox 5 viewers deserve to know if a self-proclaimed investigative reporter is in fact accepting cash to pursue stories that smear Mayor Reed and anyone close to him.
Notably, Dale Russell failed to mention the Mayor’s offer and failed to mention the details of his exchange at the event. He selectively edited footage and completely removed sound to present a false narrative. And unlike competing stations, Russell fails to publish full statements provided by the Mayor’s Office, attempting again to protect himself from embarrassment when his unethical, inaccurate and agenda-driven reporting is called out. No other news outlet in Atlanta has flat-out refused to acknowledge criticism of its coverage in the way Fox 5 has.
Over the past seven years, Dale Russell has run more than 50 hit pieces on the Reed Administration. These stories have been full of innuendo and inaccuracies, but Mike McClain and the managing directors at Fox 5 have failed to stop his behavior, even at the expense of their station’s reputation.
Adding insult to injury, dozens of Dale Russell’s claims have been proven wrong or directly contradicted, yet he has rarely, if ever, fulfilled his ethical responsibility as a journalist and corrected the record.
For example, in the matter of Jomo Reynolds vs. Mayor Kasim Reed (a similar whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2013), Dale Russell aired more than half a dozen stories on the suit. Again, Mayor Reed was included in the lawsuit in a ploy to attract media coverage and Dale Russell clearly took the bait. However, Russell never reported, with the same bravado and fanfare, that the case was ultimately dismissed. Instead, he simply stopped reporting on the story altogether. Viewers have a right to know the outcomes of these investigative stories. Unfortunately, both Russell and Fox 5 have disregarded this responsibility in a desperate effort to maintain ratings.
Dale Russell’s reporting on this so-called 'whistleblower' case will be no different. As Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said in her interview, this suit was brought by a disgruntled employee who was upset by her termination. The Atlanta Police Department provided direct evidence to refute the former employee’s claims, which the City will use to defend itself aggressively in Court against these meritless and baseless claims. Nonetheless, Russell chose to move forward with the story, again using selectively edited footage to sensationalize an otherwise pointless story.
A more responsible, ethical journalist would have reviewed the evidence provided by the Atlanta Police Department, considered the on the record statements made by the Police Chief, and determined that a lawsuit from a disgruntled employee does not merit further coverage, and certainly not four full minutes of airtime. Sadly, Dale Russell is not this responsible, ethical journalist, and he never has been. We have long passed the point where Fox 5 station leadership should have turned their attention to his ethical lapses and to the real possibility that a member of their investigative team has other motivations for the stories he pursues.
Mayor Reed’s offer from April 19 still stands; he is willing to debate Dale Russell live on television, and asks Dale Russell to be equally transparent with the public by sharing his tax returns and sources of income. We await his response."