Anchor Lee Cruse apologizes for racist joke made on air
Hayley Harmon, who co-hosted “Live With Lee & Hayley” on WLEX with Lee Cruse until Cruse was fired three months ago, announced Tuesday that she is leaving WLEX.
“It’s been really hard for me since then. It really has not gotten any easier,” Harmon said as she made the announcement on-air at the opening of “Live with Hayley.”
Harmon said her last day at WLEX will be Friday.
As the show transitions over the coming weeks, meteorologist Seth Phillips, who has been co-hosting with Harmon, will be joined by former WKYT anchor Jennifer Palumbo during the 12:30 p.m. timeslot.
Palumbo will also join Harmon and Phillips throughout the rest of this week.
Harmon said landing a job at the Lexington NBC affiliate five years ago was “a dream come true,” and she said the decision to leave has been “gut-wrenching” and “bittersweet.”
“It’s just time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life,” she said.
Harmon started out at the station anchoring “Sunrise” alongside Chris Goodman and Tom Ackerman.
“Live with Lee & Hayley” debuted in 2017, and Cruse and Harmon moved from mornings to the 4 p.m. newscast last year.
Cruse was let go from the station in May, a few weeks after making on-air comments that were deemed inappropriate by the station and decried as racist by many on social media.
Cruse’s comments came as a reaction to a story about a BBC radio broadcaster who was fired after tweeting a photo of a chimpanzee with a human couple as a reference to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s new baby, Archie.
Cruse laughed and said the broadcaster was his ”new favorite disc jockey.”
He apologized the next day and again a week later, saying he had made an “egregious” error and had not read his script before going on-air to deliver the story.
“That’s not me. That isn’t me at all,” Cruse said May 10. He later called himself a “full-blown moron idiot” and said he deserved to be called the “vile and ugly” names people were calling him on social media.
Harmon said at the time that she was “devastated” by the decision and stood by Cruse, who she said had “never once showed a racist tendency or a racial insensitivity whatsoever,” in their five years of working together.
Harmon said Tuesday that she has no immediate plans for her next career move.
“I just need a break,” she said.
Harmon said she is trusting God for her next step. “I don’t feel done with television,” she said. “I don’t feel done with news.”
Pat Dalbey, vice president and general manager at WLEX, said in a story posted on the station’s website Tuesday night that “Hayley has that ability to always put a smile on people’s faces. She’s made working with her a pleasure for all of us at LEX 18. We wish her only the best and look forward to the great things she will accomplish in the future.”