Even national cable TV channel Fox News jumped on the firing of Local 10 news anchor Charles Perez, using the headline banner "Too Gay for Television?"
But can that sensational story really be true in a TV market filled with openly gay anchors (consider Channel 7) and even WPLG's own news director, Bill Pohovey, who is openly gay and who calls the shots in the newsroom.
Perez maintains he was demoted "because of (the station's) discomfort over the increasingly high profile of my sexual orientation." That is what the former anchor states in a discrimination claim filed with Miami-Dade's Equal Opportunity Board.
If you take the side of management, however, perhaps it wasn't their discomfort with his sexual orientation but the eruption of personal problems that might have begun to get in the way of Perez's job performance.
While station management won't go on record as to why Perez was pushed into the weekend anchor desk and taken off the high-profile evening newscasts July 22 and then ultimately fired (remember, they are a private entity owned by a private corporation, Post-Newsweek, so they have the right to not discuss personnel issues just like any other company), things might have started to unravel when Perez's fractured relationship with his live-in partner began to get ugly.
In April, Perez filed a petition in Miami-Dade court for an injunction for protection against domestic violence against Dennis Ricardo Peña. The two men met when Perez was an anchor in New York City in February 2006. Peña moved to Miami with Perez when the newsman returned to the area for a job with Local 10. From 2004 to 2006, Perez had been at the ABC station in New York City, where he anchored the weekend 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
The two men lived together in Perez's South Beach condo on Sunset Harbour Drive. Perez bought the condo in October 2006 for an estimated $435,000, according to the Miami Herald. Later, Pena's name was added to the title with "joint rights of survivorship,'' the newspaper reported.
But in August 2008, Perez told Peña he wanted to end the two-and-a-half-year relationship.
The injunction states that on March 16, 19, and 20, 2009, Peña stalked, harassed, and threatened Perez and that throughout the relationship, Peña touched Perez in a violent manner and threatened physical violence. On another occasion, the injunction states, Peña told Perez: "I will destroy you. I will destroy your career. I will fuck you up."
The injunction also recounts an incident from March 16, 2009, when Peña sent a personal email to a "mass number of individuals" in Perez's email address book.
The emails, which contained personal statements by Perez to a therapist in Los Angeles allegedly discussing issues of gender identity, were disseminated in order for Peña to make good on the threats of destroying the anchor's career unless Perez paid him significant sums of money, according to court papers. Peña's last known place of employment was the Fontainebleau Hotel, but he is now unemployed, according to documents.
According to the injunction, Peña also sent Perez threatening text messages that stated, "I promise u will regret what u r doing" and "you may push me as close to the brink as u wish. I won't give in to ur unreasonable demands. So feel free 2 go ahead and ruin both our credit records."
The "unreasonable demands" might be that Perez is pressuring his former live-in to surrender his ownership of the condo.
On March 20, Peña sent a third text message containing the threat, "If and when I'm evicted u will be expose (sic) for all to c and know ur true character. Who u truly are. Ponder that. Is it worth it?"
Meanwhile, Peña filed his own complaints against Perez on March 30 and April 2, alleging Perez, too, made threats. Judge Don Cohn reviewed the petition and issued an order denying petition for temporary injunction on the basis that "the allegations of the petition for injunction for protection do not meet the statutory criteria."
Both parties will appear at a final hearing August 18 in front of Judge Rosa Figarola.
Meanwhile, Perez's promising career at the station has gone up in a puff of smoke. He could've most likely stayed in that seat as long as his predecessor, Dwight Lauderdale, who retired from the station in May 2008 after a 32-year stint.
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While many are claiming the dirty laundry between Perez and his ex-partner is what prompted station management to demote and fire the anchor, the personal problems might have taken a toll on the 46-year-old career newsman and affected his job performance, insiders say.
Peña claims in his domestic violence petition that Perez had his own violence issues "exacerbated by habitual consumption of prescription and nonprescription drugs and alcohol.''
Perez's attorney, Melanie E. Damian, told the Herald that the termination will now become part of the discrimination claim.
"WPLG is disappointed that the actions of Charles Perez left us no real choice other than to terminate his employment contract," WPLG Vice President and General Manager Dave Boylan said in a statement to the Herald. "WPLG emphatically denies Perez's claim of discrimination. The document he is circulating is filled with misstatements and untruths."