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March 12, 2018

After John Oliver jibe, FOX29's Mike Jerrick gets divided reaction on Twitter

Social Media Controversy
hbo screenshot john oliver mike jerrick Last Week Tonight/HBO

John Oliver talks Mike Jerrick on "Last Week Tonight."

John Oliver looked positively queasy on Sunday night's episode of "Last Week Tonight," delivering a must-see moment in which he blasted FOX29 morning anchor Mike Jerrick for his behavior on International Women's Day.

Morning news viewers in Philadelphia are well-acquainted with Jerrick's eccentric personality. The general template for "Good Day Philadelphia," if you boil it all down, surrounds a kooky dad type (Jerrick) who only sort of tries to understand the world of his talented millennial co-host (Alex Holley) because it's usually funnier that way.

We say "usually" because Jerrick has been known to skirt lines in the past. When he blurted out that Kellyanne Conway was "good at bull****" for coining the term "alternative facts," most people seemed to think that was hilarious. FOX29 still suspended him for a week. He used explicit language on-air. You can't do that.

This time, Jerrick walked right into the eye of the #MeToo storm and essentially asked to be torn to shreds.

Only Jerrick can say whether the impact of these clips going national is more than he bargained for with his attempt at humor. Maybe in another time, Jerrick's lascivious act might have been seen and dismissed as primarily that — a provocative and avuncular riff on gender — but for him to be unaware this is a how-to on creating PR nightmares in 2018 is either pretty incredible or he doesn't really give a damn. 

Not to mention, of course, that conduct like this often makes women feel extremely uncomfortable and threatened, regardless of whether it's a joke and regardless of whether women feel they have the support around them to safely admit it.  

An attempt to reach FOX29 for comment earlier Monday was not returned. Jerrick hasn't publicly commented on Oliver's criticism and Holley, whose patience for Jerrick's unpredictability should win her medals, hasn't thrown her co-anchor under the bus now that (or just because) this has become a story. 

Without defending a word Jerrick said, it really is all-too-easy to forget that local viewers didn't bat much of an eye at the segment when it aired Thursday morning, judging by social media posts on March 8. 

Fast forward to Monday and the reactions on Twitter are mostly calling for Jerrick's head. There are some people standing up for him by suggesting you really have to know him (and presumably Holley and Karen Hepp's professional relationship with him) in order to get that this is part of what the show permits for entertainment, up to a point. Many, many others want Jerrick to be fired. 

Here's a look at what's being said.

John Oliver has earned himself a reputation for being aggressive about flagging disrespect toward women, at least as much as he has for objecting to anything else ethically wrong. He memorably caught Dustin Hoffman off guard last year with a pointed series of questions about sexual harassment allegations. Oliver later said he regretted the timing of his interrogation

We've seen Oliver do follow-up segments about locally inspired subjects that struck a nerve, such as the model train display he had built for Scranton's WNEP-TV. It's fair to ask whether he'll revisit this incident once new information comes to light from FOX29 and Jerrick, a family man who's now famous for reasons he'd probably rather not be.