Fox 26 Houston general assignment reporter Ivory Hecker said Tuesday that she has been fired after interrupting a live on-air report to accuse her employers of “muzzling” her.
In an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday afternoon, the 32-year-old reporter claimed she’d been terminated via text message and declared that she would never work in corporate media again—not even for Fox News, where she claimed “they wanted to bring me up.”
Hecker went viral on Monday when she began a live report about the weather by revealing that she provided secret recordings to Project Veritas, the right-wing activist group founded by James O’Keefe, supposedly proving corruption and censorship at her station.
“Before we get to that story, I want to let you, the viewers, know that Fox Corp. has been muzzling me to keep certain information from you, the viewers,” Hecker said during the Monday on-air report. “And from what I’m gathering, I am not the only reporter being subjected to this.”
“I am going to be releasing some recordings about what goes on behind the scenes at Fox, because it applies to you, the viewers,” she declared. “I found a non-profit journalism group called Project Veritas that is going to help put that out tomorrow, so tune in then.” Hecker then pivoted to her report, which featured her standing in front of a man repairing an air-conditioning unit.
Hecker was initially suspended by the station on Tuesday morning. When The Daily Beast reached her by phone in the afternoon, Hecker said she’d just landed in New York before a male voice in the background asked her who she was speaking with. After she mentioned a Daily Beast reporter was on the phone, the unidentified person told her to “get off the phone now.” Moments later, Hecker called back and confirmed that she had just been terminated by Fox 26 within the past hour.
The station, meanwhile, confirmed that Hecker was no longer an employee while torching her for pairing up with Project Veritas.
“FOX 26 adheres to the highest editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality,” a Fox 26 spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “This incident involves nothing more than a disgruntled former employee seeking publicity by promoting a false narrative produced through selective editing and misrepresentation.”
“I have been longing to part ways with this strange, slightly unhinged corporation since last August when I realized what they were,” Hecker told The Daily Beast. “The piece with Project Veritas doesn’t touch what they did. Fox 26 knows I’m fearless.” She added: “I have zero interest in working for another corporation. They all toe the same line.”
Hecker even took a jab at the flagship network of her former employer’s parent company: “I would turn down Fox News. They wanted to bring me up to the network. I met a lot of executives there and I don’t want to talk to them anymore. It came from one of the top executives there that what I needed to succeed was to get in line with the narrative.”
A Fox News spokesperson, however, confirmed the network did have a single meeting with Hecker but claimed it was only as a courtesy and the reporter was never offered a job with the network.
Ultimately, the drama surrounding Hecker’s on-air stunt proved to be more salacious than the actual allegations contained within her “sting” videos revealed on Tuesday evening.
The 10-minute video featured Hecker sitting down with O’Keefe to allege that Fox 26 management purposely steered her away from legitimate news stories in order to support a specific agenda handed down from corporate headquarters.
In one piece of surreptitiously recorded footage, Fox 26 assistant news director Lee Meier was seen explaining why the station does not do more stories on Bitcoin. In the clip, Meier said it’s “an editorial choice” to not cover the cryptocurrency because it likely would not appeal to the station’s early-evening broadcast viewership.
“I have passed on Bitcoin stories by almost every single reporter for our five o’clock audience, because that’s not our five o’clock audience,” Meier stated. “So, there are lots of reasons. If I know our numbers are tanking from five to six and in one particular segment… I may say, yeah, and Bitcoin for poor African-American audience at five, it’s probably not going to play. That’s a choice I’m making.”
Reacting to Meier’s rather mundane remarks about the incentives of broadcast news, Hecker declared to O’Keefe: “I want out of this narrative news telling! I want out of this corruption!”
Hecker also contended that Fox 26 attempted to censor her over her coverage of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug hyped by former President Donald Trump as a miracle COVID-19 cure but found to be largely ineffective against the virus.
In a recorded call with Meier and Fox 26 vice president and news director Susan Schiller, Hecker was told she “failed as a reporter” for not looking at the “latest research” on the drug before boosting a post from a local doctor hyping it as a COVID-19 treatment.
“You need to cease and desist posting about hydroxychloroquine,” Schiller told Hecker.
Station management’s critical comments to Hecker appear to center around a Facebook post the reporter shared last August, featuring Dr. Joseph Varon’s claim that he used hydroxychloroquine to “good success.”
In the call with her bosses, Hecker claimed the studies downplaying the effectiveness and safety of the drug made Varon’s comments more newsworthy. At the same time, she brought up Dr. Stella Immanuel, noting that she also referenced clinical research about hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy in her story about the controversial doctor. Immanuel, who believes sex with demons makes you sick, baselessly insisted that the anti-malarial drug is a “cure for COVID,” drawing praise from Trump but bans on social-media platforms. Hecker’s reporting on Immanuel at the time was largely sympathetic, painting her as a victim of “mass censorship.”
“They sent me to interview Dr. Joseph Varon, a highly respected doctor who did 1,600 media interviews,” Hecker told The Daily Beast. “They banned me permanently—after my interview—from covering COVID-19 medical treatments.”
The Project Veritas video also featured undercover videos of Fox 26 employees from the conservative group’s own operatives, though these also appear to be more than a bit overhyped—largely involving low-level station staffers from its business side.
In one clip, an undercover Project Veritas staffer spoke with a sales coordinator and promo producer at a loud bar over drinks. The Fox 26 employees acknowledged at one point that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is paying for advertising at the station, noting that they tend to be able to outbid other sponsors, eventually prompting the Project Veritas operative to try to connect the dots between vaccine advocacy in the station’s news coverage and money it received from the government’s ad purchases.
“So could the Ad Council call you and be like, ‘Hey, I want to run all these spots but I want to make sure your journalists aren’t running any anti-vax stories’?” the Project Veritas plant asked.
“If that happens, it’s above our [pay grade],” the promo producer replied.
“Does that stuff like that ever happen?” the Project Veritas operator pressed some more.
“It can, a lot of stuff can happen,” the sales coordinator responded.
Elsewhere, another undercover operative got a Fox 26 photographer to give his opinion that the station’s coverage is “pushing” vaccines more than it needed to. Eventually, though, it appeared that Hecker herself even admitted that there wasn’t any real smoking-gun evidence of corporate corruption preventing the station from reporting real news.
“There’s always that concern that the corporation might cater too much to advertisers or self-censor to make sure they don’t lose any advertisers,” she declared.
At the end of the video, meanwhile, Hecker sounded as if she was outright auditioning for a job in right-wing media.
“I want to tell true stories without fear of if it fits the corporate narrative,” the reporter intoned, prompting O’Keefe to dramatically add: “Ivory Hecker is ready to pursue a career in independent journalism where she can report the news without fear or favor.”
—Diana Falzone was an on-camera and digital reporter for FoxNews.com from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender discrimination and disability lawsuit against the network and settled, and left the company in March 2018.