Television news producer Kristen Hentschel is facing the heat after she asked a candidate for the Florida House of Representative Toby Overdorf about 20 dead gopher tortoises at a construction site. In reality, there were no dead tortoises.
But Hentschel posted her news-style video online and soon enough, the cameras shone on her. It came to light that she mostly worked for Good Morning America, as per a report by NPR and Floodlight.
It turns out that Hentschel, a freelance producer, was paid at least $14,350 by an Alabama-based political consulting firm Matrix LLC to coerce the environmentally-friendly politicians with fictitious or misleading questions. She claimed to be working for ABC while filming the hit piece, but the media company said she hadn't been assigned to the story.
Never Worked For ABC
Miranda Green, Director of Investigations at Floodlight News, tweeted ABC News spokesperson saying that Kristen Hentschel was a freelance daily hire who never worked for ABC News on the political stories referenced in the NPR article. "She does not currently work for ABC News."
Green says that Hentschel claimed to be a national reporter when in fact, she was a corporate operative. "The same month that Hentschel began working for ABC News as a freelance producer, she was also hired by consulting firm Matrix LLC. Matrix paid Hentschel at least $14,350 and billed two companies for some of her work labelling payments for 'Florida Crystals, FPL'".
Investigations found that Hentschel traded on her ABC connections three times to trip up politicians whose green stances challenged Matrix clients. Green highlighted the incidents â filming a gotcha style video of Florida State Rep. Toby Overdorf wherein he was accused of being complicit in the murder of over 20 protected gopher tortoises; trespassing into the private community of GOP Rep. Brian Mast who was a well-worn opposition to Florida Crystals; and attempting to film South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard after a commission meeting and asking damning questions.
The investigation found that both companies could have benefitted from Hentschel's efforts to undermine Overdorf and his promises to resolve environmental issues in the district he wanted to represent. But Florida Crystals has denied any involvement. The company's lawyer Joseph Klock said it was not involved in any way, nor was anyone acting on its behalf, in any negative attacks in any form, directly or indirectly.
Trust in News Media
David Westin, who was president of ABC News from 1997 â 2010, said he never came across an instance in which a journalist for the network was simultaneously doing advocacy. "It just goes to the very heart of why people no longer have the same confidence and trust in the news media as they once did. They suspect this is going on anyway, and for it to actually go on confirms their worst suspicions."