While covering the fallout from the Kyle Dyer/9News on-air dog bite incident, we noted the disappearance of a controversial Facebook post by staffer Kirk Montgomery and wondered if he'd been pressured to remove it. News director Patti Dennis denied any censorship and called such speculation "immoral." Now, Montgomery reveals that he removed the post himself due to the reaction of some Facebookers to Dyer's injury.
The topic arose on a segment of Peter Boyles's KHOW radio program in which Westword editor Patricia Calhoun and I participated. During the conversation, we discussed a guest commentary by former Denver Post staffer John Moore entitled "Fox-31's handling of dog bite video flips 9News the bird," which stated that Montgomery "wrote there's a special place in hell for whoever at the local Fox affiliate has chosen to keep airing the slowed-down video of a dog biting 9News co-anchor Kyle Dyer's lip on live TV." However, that post and another by Montgomery are no longer on view at the Facebook page where they originally appeared.
Because another bite-related Facebook post by a 9News staffer (co-anchor Gary Shapiro) had also vanished, and since Dennis had phoned various news outlets on the day of the incident asking that they refrain from airing video of what took place, rumors of a cover-up effort naturally began to circulate. But Montgomery tells us that nothing of the sort took place. Instead, he removed the post Moore mentions, as well as other notes, because many of the Facebook comments he received attacked Dyer.
"All I have ever tried to do is try to shield a friend and co-worker from the people who have somehow placed blame and turned this into a horrific debate, with name-calling and unnecessary posts of hate on her own public page," he says.
Montgomery attempted to convey these feelings in a February 13 post in which he discussed Dyer's injuries after she had shared details in a Facebook item of her own. The message reads:
I saw Kyle Dyer today. She wanted to express how grateful she is for everyone's well wishes. She now needs time to heal. It could be a month, but she will return. As some of you may know, she posted a message on her public-figure page thanking everyone as well. And after her post, I can now reveal just how serious her injury was.
She lost half of her upper lip, lost a tremendous amount of blood and she has 75 stitches. Her lips are now sewn shut after extensive skin-grafting. I knew the injury was far worse than people thought, but out of respect for Kyle, I withheld the information until she felt ready to share the news herself. Everyone needs to heal now -- Kyle, her family, the dog and the dog's family and our morning crew staff, who were traumatized by the event.
This incident has been so polarizing for people that some of the comments on Kyle's public page make me sick to my stomach. I will never understand the ignorance and hate of some people. I even had to change my own privacy settings on Facebook after I was attacked on my own wall. The vile, horrible things people are saying. So if you are reading this, you are one of my "friends." No one else can comment or post on my wall.
So much has been said, so much blame and name-calling, it has really shaken me to the core. It was a traumatic incident for everyone, and now that the severity of her injuries has been made public, I hope those "haters" will look themselves in the eye and feel shame. If you don't agree, please de-friend me now. It's time to heal.
According to Montgomery, this post generated 400 positive comments. But when he subsequently shared his thoughts about Fox31's use of the dog-bite video referenced in Moore's guest commentary, a number of nasty takes popped up again. Their presence so distressed him that he removed the original item and took a self-imposed hiatus from Facebook to reflect on the experience, unwittingly prompting censorship suspicions.
Here's a Facebook post from this week in which Montgomery did his best to defuse the situation.
There has been a lot of speculation today in the press and misinformation. Let me set the record straight. I took a break from social media last week because I was overwhelmed by the negativity and I was too close to the story. I'm also an emotional guy. Somehow that has led to allegations that 9News suspended or censored me. That is totally false. No one ever said a word to me. I deleted my post criticizing the choice of another station because it added more fuel to the fire, which was not my intent. Could I have phrased it differently? Perhaps. But my opinion, and it is just my opinion, remains the same. As I have said all along, let's move forward, learn and heal for everyone involved. Thank you.
"I have never had any conversation with anyone from 9News about anything I post," he elaborates, "whether it's my opinion on a film or making fun of Christina Aguilera during my online chat about The Voice. My opinion is my own, and there's never been any discussion with anyone at the station."
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Regarding Dyer's recovery, Montgomery says it's progressing very well. "She's very optimistic," he adds. "She's a very upbeat, optimistic person, and the last time I saw her, she seemed to be in good spirits."
Nonetheless, he believes that the biting incident "has been a tragedy on so many levels -- and it really now is time to let Kyle and her family, and the dog and the dog's family, heal. We just need prayers and healing for everyone involved. And let's all hope we can learn something from this."
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More from our Media archive: "9News technical meltdown forces newscast to go back to the future -- the pre-voiceover era."