KTTC reporter fired for wearing 'MAGA' hat outside Trump rally
KTTC has fired an employee who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat while covering Thursday’s visit by President Donald Trump.
Reporter James “Jim” Bunner was captured sporting the MAGA hat outside the Mayo Civic Center prior to Trump’s historic visit to Rochester. As the photo below from Star Tribune journalist Mark Vancleave shows, Bunner was on the clock — acting as a representative of the station.
As a standard practice, journalists are forbidden from publicly advertising their political affiliations — especially when in the field.
Noel Sederstrom, KTTC’s news director, confirmed Friday that Bunner was fired following his coverage of the rally. Sederstrom said the station’s policy prohibits its reporters from wearing campaign material while on assignment.
“Our newsroom's standards of professional journalism do not allow our reporters to wear partisan political campaign clothing while actively covering a political campaign event for the television station,” said Sederstrom. “We work hard to be neutral and unbiased toward all political parties and candidates.”
Bunner, who had been working out of the TV station’s Austin office since 2017, is not responding to requests for comment. However, his Facebook profile paints a picture of a reporter who was not shy about his political leanings. In January 2017, for instance, Bunner shared a video of himself dancing following President Trump’s inauguration.
"A reporter for an NBC affiliate in Minnesota was fired Friday, one day after he was spotted wearing a 'MAGA' hat while covering a Trump rally for the local TV station." Cmon, man! Every reporter knows that wearing campaign clothes is a blatant violation… https://t.co/A3bwZblm56— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 6, 2018
News of Bunner’s firing — which has been picked up by media outlets all over the country (including BuzzFeed and the Associated Press) — does not appear to be the reporter’s first encounter with controversy.
According to a report from Omaha-based WOWT News, Bunner was arrested in 2012 following an incident that prompted an investigation from the bomb squad. Police later learned that Bunner had attached water balloons to a woman’s car — apparently as a prank. The woman told authorities that Bunner had been stalking her and sending her harassing texts.
In an email late Friday, Sederstrom — citing company policy — declined to comment on whether KTTC knew of the charges prior to hiring Bunner.
Cover: Thursday’s Trump rally in Rochester / William Forsman