A Los Angeles television station parted ways with the popular host after he went on air to criticize management’s handling of a colleague’s departure, officials said Friday.
Mark Mester won’t be in the chair when KTLA’s Weekend Morning News airs Saturday, a week after he seemed to go off the script to rip the station apart for not hosted a more grandiose farewell to her longtime co-host, Lynette Romero.
“Mark Mester is no longer with KTLA,” Nexstar Media Group Inc. said in a statement Friday. from Irving, Texas, which owns the CW Channel 5 affiliate in Southern California. “Because this is a staffing issue, we will refrain from further comment.”
Last Saturday, Mester seemed to be holding back tears as he told viewers that the station should be ashamed of itself for not giving Romero a famous send-off.
“I want to start right now by apologizing to you. What viewers went through was rude, cruel, inappropriate, and we’re sorry,” Mester told viewers in an emotional, nearly four-minute testament to his former co-worker. “I also want to apologize to Lynette Romero. I love you so much, you are literally my best friend. You didn’t deserve what happened to you on Wednesday.”
Mester’s monologue was delivered along with three colleagues and was accompanied by clips of Romero’s work and photographs from her personal life.
Three days earlier, KTLA morning host Sam Rubin announced on the air that Romero had left the station.
The words, read by Rubin on air last week, reflect a statement Friday by NBC News, which owns the station, to Nexstar, who owns the station, attributing it to KTLA Vice President and CEO Janine Drafs.
“After 24 years, Lynette Romero has decided to retire our weekend morning news. We really wanted her to stay and KTLA management worked hard to make that happen,” Drafs said in a statement.
“Lynette decided to leave to take another opportunity. We hoped that she would record a farewell message to the audience, but she refused, ”the statement says. “Lynette was a wonderful member of the KTLA family and we wish her and her family all the best.”
However, simple send-offs did not satisfy Mester.
While he praised Drafs on air on Saturday, he took issue with the unnamed bosses due to Romero’s exit style. Mester said that Romero left KTLA to take advantage of another “opportunity”.
“It was unfortunate… it was inappropriate and we are very sorry about it,” he said of the KTLA leadership. “Lynette deserved to say goodbye. That did not happen. I don’t know who wrote the script. I don’t know who gave it to Sam Rubin. I have to apologize to Lynette.”
Mester did not respond to messages asking for comment on Friday.
Longtime TV journalists and presenters often receive a loving on-air send-off when they retire or leave their jobs.
But when these on-air individuals leave for a competing network or station, the breakup is often immediate, with little or no mention by the prospective employer.
The KTLA did not say if Romero had found another job and could not be contacted for comment on Friday.
Television news contracts typically include non-compete clauses, prohibiting a reporter or anchor from working for a competing station for a specified period of time, often six months.
Mester thanked Romero for her mentorship and said he learned that “dignity and grace” were the keys to success.
“And that’s how we’re going to say goodbye to you today,” Mester said on air. “We are going to offer you dignity and grace, which is what the station was supposed to do from the very beginning.”
Mester told viewers that the plane pulling “WE LOVE YOU LYNETTE!” The message was flying over the station at that very moment. He shared a video of the plane pulling the banner on his Instagram, writing, “Now is the perfect time to tell @lynetteromero you love her!”
Lisa Torres contributed.
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