An Illinois broadcast meteorologist who was taken off television after criticizing an unpopular “Code Red” weather alert system has been fired, his former employer confirmed.
Joe Crain’s dismissal was confirmed Thursday by Rob Ford, a spokesman for Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Crain’s former employer, WICS-TV in Springfield, Illinois. Ford declined further comment.
Crain, a 15-year WICS veteran, was absent from newscasts after an on-air critique June 5 of Sinclair’s “Code Red” weather-alert brand, which the station subsequently announced would be replaced.
Crain acknowledged widespread community complaints that “Code Red” was alarmist and imprecise. He said it was improperly “all-inclusive” and failed to recognize storms’ varying degrees.
“When you hear ‘Code Red,’ you think, as they say, the feces is about to hit the fan. We understand your concerns,” Crain said. “It’s not us. This is a corporate initiative, the ‘Code Red’ alert, and behind the scenes, many of us have tried to dissuade it for the last few months.”
Crain’s absence unleashed social-media protests, petitions demanding his return, and advertiser boycotts. Businesses pulled their ads in support of Crain and to protest “Code Red” as a needless alarm that persuaded people to stay home and away from restaurants and retail stores.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who lives in Springfield, voiced support for Crain. A weekly newspaper reporter composed a song, “Joe Crain,” to the tune of the early 20th Century labor anthem, “Joe Hill,” and the brouhaha was the subject of a parody bit on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert.
Crain has declined comment. WICS general manager Rick Lipps posted an online video Monday in which he announced that the station would replace “Code Red” with a “Weather Warn” banner and that managers would work to improve geographic specificity of alerts.
Lipps said in the video that he could not comment on Crain because it was a personnel matter. But Sinclair posted a solicitation for a WICS meteorologist on its website Tuesday.