An NBC affiliate station in Charleston, South Carolina, is “suspending indefinitely” one of its reporters after he confronted the city’s mayor about why the stations report positive reactions to the arrest of a top city official who is accused of having sex with high school girls.
Alderman Frank Petito resigned from his position this week amid scandal. Police said that he groped four teenage girls in his position as a high school baseball coach and paid some of them as much as $500 a month for sexual encounters.
An NBC 7 freelancer, Andrew Sesser, said he used Facebook Live on Wednesday to question Mayor Danny Jones about “the media frenzy that seems to have engulfed the City of Charleston,” after it was learned that an officer was paid to investigate Petito and that at least one player from local schools said they were groped by the city official.
(Watch Sesser questioning Jones and Petito’s accusers and screenshots of the Facebook video.)
Jones appeared to shrug off the criticisms and said he wasn’t going to let it “be a distraction to the people that are trying to make the city better.”
But Sesser said he “expressed interest to get further details of Petito’s accusations and what led up to his resignation.”
Jones responded by accusing Sesser of being a “defamatory liberal” who “wants to use my city for their own agenda.” He accused Sesser of asking questions about “a Democratic judge” that were “totally fabricated.”
Sesser said on Twitter that Jones’ comments were “cringeworthy” and accused him of “targeting,” “harassing” and “sniping at” him.
The mayor issued a statement Thursday night saying he “didn’t want to have a confrontation” and that he was “grossly misrepresented” in Sesser’s video.
“The unfortunate response from Mr. Sesser doesn’t surprise me – he’s a Republican who has long prided himself on being at odds with Charleston’s Democratic mayor and our Democratic-held City Council,” the mayor said in a statement. “I won’t let a partisan conversation derail efforts to hold Mr. Petito accountable for his alleged crimes.”
Sesser, meanwhile, said he wants to work with the city and make sure “that more meaningful job and education opportunities are available to its young people.”
“As a city, it is time for Charleston to move on,” he said. “It is time to focus on our successes. It is time to focus on bringing more businesses and people to the city.”
Watch Sesser’s full Facebook Live interview with the mayor below:
Watch Jones respond to Sesser’s questioning below:
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