KTLA’s veteran 10 p.m. news anchor Hal Fishman wasn’t laughing when “KTLA Morning News” entertainment reporter Sam Rubin recently quipped on the air that Fishman once “wore a skirt for a co-anchor job in Spokane.”
In fact, Fishman became livid. He contacted his attorney, high-powered agent Ed Hookstratten, and threatened to walk off the job if the station didn’t take immediate steps to remedy the “smears and lies.”
“I’m concerned about being lied about and slandered on the air,” Fishman says. “It would bother any serious news person. I have as good a sense of humor as anyone else, but I don’t like lies being told — even if they’re supposed to be funny.”
For the record, Fishman said: “I don’t wear a dress and never have. I’m not a cross dresser and I never had a co-anchor job in Spokane.”
The controversy began on the July 16 edition of the “Morning News,” when Rubin compared the similarities and differences between Fishman, who appeared in a Barry Levinson film being shot on the KTLA lot, and actor Dustin Hoffman.
First Rubin noted that they both have seven letters in their last names, and that Hoffman hates to fly while Fishman is a pilot. The anchor didn’t have any problem with the first two items, saying they were probably accurate but not very funny.
Then, before Rubin dropped his gender bombshell, he told the audience that Hoffman appeared in the movie “The Graduate” while the newsman-actor Fishman was a professor in graduate school. Fishman says that he was actually an assistant professor of government many years ago, but he was willing to let Rubin off on that one.
The “capper,” Fishman said, came when Rubin put a scrawl across the screen noting that Hoffman wore a dress in the movie “Tootsie,” while Fishman wore a dress as an anchor.
“It is a total lie,” Fishman says. “I stake my whole reputation on one word, credibility. I have a serious newscast. Then to have someone come on my own station and make a total fabrication, it is just appalling.”
Asked if he wants Rubin fired, Fishman said: “I don’t care about him or what happens to him. I care about my program, my image and my credibility.”
Rubin says he never meant any harm.
“I admire the fact that every night, Hal Fishman sits in the chair and delivers the most popular (primetime) newscast in Los Angeles,” he said.
Fishman, who along with KCAL-TV’s Jerry Dunphy is the highest-paid indie anchor in the market, says his decision about whether he stays or goes “depends how this thing works out.”
KTLA general manager Greg Nathanson, who called Rubin’s comments “a stupid thing to say,” says he has reprimanded him and that he will face further “repercussions.” But he insists the station still supports Rubin, who will take part in a new 9-10 a.m. morning talkshow.