Following a swelling Twitter backlash this week, a WSVN-TV spokesperson tells New Times that its influential social-media producer Joel Franco no longer works there.
"He's no longer a station employee," spokesperson Lily Pardo wrote in an email tonight.
Pardo did not provide further explanation. New Times has requested more details.
Franco, who is 24, made a name for himself by aggregating news on social media for young millennials and Gen Zers in Miami. The Miami Dade College alumnus began working as a social-media producer for WSVN in May of 2018. As of this past February, he had 50,000 followers on his Twitter account, @OfficialJoelF.
Franco did not immediately answer a direct message on Twitter. A cell-phone number he had previously been using was disconnected when New Times attempted to reach him for comment.
In March, several of Franco's followers unearthed old tweets in which he discussed rape in a crude and possibly threatening manner.
"#JoelFrancoPickUpLines girl I'm hoping they legalize rape right now ;)" he tweeted in 2013, when he would have been 17 years old.
Another 2013 tweet read: "Just imagine me whispering in your ear from behind. then raping u"
In a third exchange from the same year, a young woman on Twitter asked: "How can people hate being drunk?????? I love it"
Franco responded: "easy rape target"
In addition to the tweets about rape, some Twitter users accused him of inappropriate behavior with teenage girls when he was over 18.
Franco addressed those allegations in a tweet on March 18 that remains pinned to the top of his timeline.
"Last night a couple of old tweets of mine were brought up," he wrote in part. "I want to address those first. I made them many years ago as a 'joke' with friends. They are absolutely disgusting and not a representation of who I am. I know how inappropriate they are and apologize to anybody who was understandably offended."
He denied the other accusations of inappropriate behavior.
"That being said, everything else that I'm being accused of is NOT true," he wrote. "We live in a time when anybody can make an accusation online and spread it like wildfire."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Franco made headlines last weekend after he was arrested and charged with violating a countywide curfew while covering a George Floyd protest in downtown Miami on Sunday. A day later, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced it was dismissing the case because the curfew order specifically exempted working journalists.
Following Franco's arrest, the March allegations resurfaced and several Twitter users pushed to have him fired. In recent days, more than 10,000 people signed a petition on Change.org asking WSVN to terminate his employment. Yesterday, "Joel Franco" was trending on Twitter as other users brought up new allegations of misconduct.
This is a breaking news post. New Times will continue to report this story.