Last Friday, KTLA weekend anchor Courtney Friel’s salacious book excerpt was featured by the New York Daily News. The next day, Friel wasn’t in the anchor chair at her regularly scheduled 5 p.m. slot, nor was she in it at 6 p.m., nor was she in it at 10 p.m., nor was she in the chair at 11 p.m. And on Sunday, she again was not in the anchor chair at 5, 6, 7, 10, or 11 p.m.
No, the Los Angeles local TV anchor has been sent on “vacation” after the Daily News revealed that, in her new book Tonight at 10: Kicking Booze and Breaking News, Friel claims President Donald Trump once phoned her and called her “the hottest one at Fox News” and then allegedly said: “You should come up to my office sometime, so we can kiss.”
Why would KTLA remove a popular anchor one day after she revealed that the president of the United States made a sexual overture toward her? Friel wasn’t planning to go on vacation until the following Monday, but KTLA seemingly disappeared her right after the Daily News excerpt published, causing observers to question such an unannounced break.
KTLA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
On Saturday, according to a firsthand witness who spoke to The Daily Beast, Friel was interrupted by a paparazzo while shopping for groceries at a West Hollywood Whole Foods. The photographer asked her: “Why are you not on the news right now?”
She responded: “That’s a good question. I’m the weekend anchor, ask them.”
“Do you think you’re going to be fired?” he asked Friel.
“I hope not. I love my job,” she told him, before he snapped some pictures.
Friel declined to comment for this story. In a statement, her publicist Steve Honig said: “Courtney’s book tour started when she flew to NY this past Monday and she is due back on Jan. 18.” He referred The Daily Beast to KTLA, where she was supposed to anchor this past weekend, for any further comment.
A source familiar with the matter said that her accusation against the president and her open support of Trump’s many sexual-misconduct accusers made the network question her objectivity. Another source confirmed that Friel had been wanting to come forward about Trump’s sexual advances in 2016 but, at the time, had been persuaded not to.
A former colleague told The Daily Beast that “even during her drinking period, before she got sober, she was always filled with integrity and she was very professional and went about her job in a serious manner. She wanted to prove to people that she wasn’t just another pretty face and she worked extra hard to prove that.”
Employment lawyer Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Gretchen Carlson and sued Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, said of Friel’s ordeal: “No woman can be legally retaliated against for speaking out about sexual harassment; it’s a protected activity under federal and California law.
“Also, the idea that she couldn’t be objective about sexual harassment is absurd, and it’s against the law. It’s like saying you’re against embezzlement. The idea that you can’t be objective as a journalist if you speak out against illegal activity is absurd.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Friel did not give an interview to the Daily News, but rather that an excerpt of her book was published by the newspaper.