Is Acevedo Stonewalling Fox TV?

Friction between the two stems from arrest of jaywalking jogger

Is Acevedo Stonewalling Fox TV?

Has Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo barred KTBC (Fox 7) from any one-on-one interviews? According to a series of taped conversations a fired Fox employee sent to the Chronicle Newsdesk, the answer is yes.

The principals involved aren't talking.

The situation sparked from a Feb. 20 incident, when two Austin police officers arrested a jaywalking jogger, Amanda Jo Stephen, near the UT campus. A cell-phone video of the bust – in which the cops can be seen grabbing Stephen to stop her, and she goes limp – went viral, sparking international backlash over the alleged force used by the officers. A media fracas followed Stephen's arrest, one that grew so wild that Chief Acevedo was asked to respond during an unrelated press conference. He made a rhetorical mistake that day – a big one – by attempting to dismiss the backlash, saying, "In other cities there's cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for controversy in Austin, Texas." (Acevedo would later apologize, citing the emotional context of the same-day conviction of a cop-killer, the actual subject of the press conference.)

Phillip Perea was a promotion producer at Fox when this all went down, and he teased a story on Facebook by aligning a picture of Stephen crying next to one of Acevedo reacting. But the one he used of the chief was more sensational than informative, and Perea's superiors didn't like it – because, apparently, neither did Acevedo.

Perea provided the Chronicle a recorded conversation he had with KTBC Vice Presi­dent and General Manager Michael Lewis concerning the Facebook posting. Three months afterward, in a May 24 meeting concerning his imminent suspension (levied, based on the same recordings, due to alleged inappropriate behavior and an alleged general inability to follow directions), Perea recorded Lewis saying that Acevedo hadn't agreed to an individualized interview with Fox since the subsequently deleted photo had been Facebooked.

"He was so offended by that, that we're on the outs," Lewis (as identified by Perea) apparently told Perea. "He won't come on our station anymore." He said Acevedo was letting Fox sit in and record group media interviews, but avoiding one-on-ones – and added that the photo had made Acevedo "look like a buffoon."

The Chronicle couldn't confirm directly that it was Lewis speaking on the recording. Attempts to speak with the GM were thwarted by a press liaison from Fox's New York-based headquarters, who ignored a couple of questions about Acevedo's track record with the network before coming back with a canned GM-issued statement: "We have a great relationship with Chief Art Acevedo and the Austin Police Department." Asked for clarification on Lewis' particular choice of verb tense, the press liaison stayed mum.

Acevedo's response wasn't much more helpful. He responded via a public information officer last Tuesday, while the chief was in Fairfax, Va., accepting induction into the Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame (yes, that's a thing – established by the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at George Mason University). Acevedo's spokeswoman offered that he's never received a complaint from KTBC, and that "every time we've had a press conference, he's addressed their concerns in the same manner in which he's addressed other networks." Which doesn't exactly speak to his willingness (or lack thereof) to sit down mano a mano with the station.

In this case, it appears that there's precious little communication going on.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Art Acevedo
Acevedo Out, Manley In, Search for Permanent Chief is On
Acevedo Out, Manley In, Search for Permanent Chief is On
Police chief leaves after nine-and-a-half years of local service

Chase Hoffberger, Nov. 25, 2016

Memories in Memo-Land
Memories in Memo-Land
Tracking back on Marc Ott's previous disciplinary memo to Acevedo

Chase Hoffberger, May 13, 2016

More by Chase Hoffberger
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Local journo Alex Hannaford’s Dead Man Talking podcast investigates the case against a man on death row

Nov. 16, 2018

EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
Association to cast ballot between incumbent Tony Marquardt or challenger Selena Xie

Nov. 16, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

KTBC (Fox 7), Art Acevedo, Amanda Jo Stephen, Phillip Perea, Michael Lewis

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle