Atlanta station cuts ties with political analyst over Trump remark

Former WSB-TV political commentator Bill Crane appears during a news broadcast.
Former WSB-TV political commentator Bill Crane appears during a news broadcast. (Still frame via WSB-TV broadcast, Graphic by The Desk)

A television station in Georgia has fired a long-time political commentator for some colorful comments he made about former U.S. President Donald Trump during a recent news broadcast.

This week, Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV (Channel 2) said it had parted ways with communications strategist and political analyst Bill Crane, who has worked with the station since 2006.

The dismissal came after Crane appeared during a news broadcast to offer insight on a probe conducted by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office into Trump’s attempt to persuade local officials to overturn last year’s election results. Among other things, Trump asked local officials to “find” enough votes for him to be declared the winner in that state during a phone call that was recorded.

During a Sunday evening news broadcast, Crane referred to Trump numerous times as “Orange Man,” a nickname that touches on Trump’s apparent orange hue featured prominently on his face. He also said GOP officials in Atlanta were trying to target undecided voters over the Labor Day holiday by “keep[ing] Donald Trump and his looming orange face in front” of them.

In a statement, Crane said the comment touched a nerve with WSB-TV viewers, who bombarded the station with angry e-mails and social media comments.

“I’m sure that strong supporters of the former president find that offensive,” Crane said. “And I do apologize for that, as the comment last night and other instances were not meant to offend.”

Station management at WSB-TV were also, apparently, offended, as they were swift to distance themselves from the nickname by removing Crane from his political commentary position.

In a statement, a spokesperson for WSB-TV said Crane’s comments were “not aligned with our commitment to fair and unbiased reporting.”

“As a result, we’re ending our relationship with Mr. Crane, effective immediately,” Ray Cater, the vice president and general manager of WSB-TV, said on Monday.

Crane said station managers told him that he “crossed a line” by demonstrating “bias against Trump and the GOP, which was not recoverable.”

For years, WSB-TV has been the highest-rated local television station in the Atlanta market. It covers more hard news than anyone else in the region and competes primarily against Fox-owned station WAGA-TV (Channel 5) and action news-oriented WXIA (Channel 11), which is affiliated with NBC.

The station is owned by Cox Media Group, which was sold to private equity firm Apollo Global Management in 2019. In addition to Cox Media, Apollo Global owns or operates the websites Yahoo, Aol, Engadget, TechCrunch and CompuServe as well as non-media assets like Chuck E. Cheese, Hostess and the restaurant chain Qdoba.