The Perea Story
Producer fired by KTBC last year kills himself at Fox headquarters
Monday's news that a man shot and killed himself outside of the News Corp. building in New York City (headquarters of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News empire) quickly revealed a peculiar local twist. Phillip Perea had spent the morning speaking out against the media behemoth's subsidiary Fox Television Stations, which he said had fired him because of a falling out he inadvertently initiated between his former employer – the network's Austin affiliate, KTBC – and Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The Chronicle covered Perea's complaints last summer ("Is Acevedo Stonewalling Fox TV?," July 4, 2014). In conversations and audio files he had recorded of certain station disciplinary meetings, the 41-year-old promotion producer said that Acevedo, angered by a photo Perea used to depict him in a Facebook post, allegedly (according to station management) had declined one-on-one interviews with the station. KTBC Vice President and General Manager Michael Lewis blamed Perea for the chief's silent treatment. Perea didn't agree, and there were reportedly episodes that his bosses considered harassment of other employees and insubordination. He was eventually fired in June 2014 – and began looking for someone to report his story.
Both Acevedo and Lewis dismissed the accusations last July, issuing indirect statements through their respective press spokespeople. Lewis also ignored requests to confirm it was indeed his voice on the recordings, in which he allegedly told Perea that Fox and the police chief were "on the outs" because the photo Perea chose made the chief "look like a buffoon." (Lewis also ignored a second request for confirmation, submitted after Perea's suicide.)
Perea remained hell-bent on exposing the "political reasons" that he believed had ruined his career, even requesting (in vain) that I email him transcripts of conversations I had with Fox's media contacts. Two days before our original story ran in July, Perea uploaded annotated versions of his lengthy conversations with Lewis onto YouTube. Between July 2 and July 27, he produced eight different videos, together totaling nearly two hours of recordings and testimonies; 27 additional videos followed, each detailing a tiny segment of what Perea considered to be a perfect portrait of corporate American "workplace bullying."
Perea published his final video on Monday morning: eight minutes that recounted the ways in which he believed Fox should be held responsible for his tribulations, the compensation the company should deliver to his two younger sisters ($1 billion, to be distributed among charities and family members), and the manner in which he believes he serves as a modern-day Prometheus, who defied the gods and gave fire to humanity (in exchange for perpetual punishment). At 8:48am, Perea shot himself on Manhattan's snowy Sixth Avenue.
Acevedo and Lewis declined comment after the suicide, though both released prepared statements. In a tweet posted Monday afternoon, the APD noted that the department's "thoughts and prayers are with [Perea's] family and friends." FTS CEO Jack Abernethy told employees in an email: "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy."
The NYPD's Public Information office did not respond to requests for a copy of a suicide note recovered at the scene, which reportedly blamed Fox for his plight and demanded reparations be paid to his family.