The Ross Report goes dark on KPEL

This story has been updated with comments from Carol Ross and word from the station that UpClose with Bernadette Lee will replace The Ross Report. Also, in a Facebook post Thursday night, Ross wrote: "I am honored beyond words by all of your kind, thoughtful and nurturing comments. As many of you have so wisely expressed — when one door closes, another opens. Stay tuned."

The gist: After more than two decades together, KPEL and its smooth but acerbic-voiced conservative personality have parted ways.

“So sorry to announce, the Ross Report is no longer on KPEL,” Carol Ross wrote on her Facebook page around noon today.

Rob Kirkpatrick, brand manager for Townsquare Media-owned NewsTalk 96.5 KPEL, says Ross, a contract employee, made the decision to leave. “It was not contentious at all,” he says. “There is no bad blood.” While Ross has been involved with the station in various capacities for more than two decades — including station manager and vice president — The Ross Report has been on the air for a little more than three years, Kirkpatrick says. 

Although he declined to go into any details, Kirkpatrick says an on-air accident earlier this week led to Ross’s departure (the first half of the Tuesday show has not been loaded). “We had an on-air mishap that a lot of people have written about,” Kirkpatrick tells me. “It was definitely a technical mistake for sure. It was just a technical error with the board, but everyone here is responsible for what happens during their show, no matter if you are an employee, a contractor, no matter what you are.”

When told that the station would have to take corrective action to protect its license — Kirkpatrick declined to reveal specifics there, too, citing personnel privacy concerns — Ross informed the station that she would rather quit. 

The only other message on Ross’s Facebook post was an ode to a famous poet. “To paraphrase the poet Robert Frost: Two roads diverged at the bayou side and sorry I could not travel both, I tell this tale with a sigh. Two roads diverged at the bayou side and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” Ross’s post had garnered more than 80 overwhelmingly supportive comments within a couple of hours, but Ross had not yet responded to them when this story was published.

“There was a slight diversion of opinion, and I chose to leave on a high note,” Ross tells me in a phone interview, explaining she’s been out of pocket to take care of filing her taxes much of the afternoon. Ross cites an “inadvertent airing of some curse words” that came in from a video she was watching. “It was a woman on video afraid she could not loot,” Ross recalls. “It was some zany video. It was purely accidental, a production error.”

“We are moving on,” Kirkpatrick says. “We have a new show we are not ready to announce yet, but it’s already done, and it’s starting on Monday. It’ll be announced this weekend,” he says, noting that the station is still working through some sponsorships and related matters. “We’re excited for what’s next. Obviously it’s a big year election-wise, and I think everyone will be very pleased with who will take over that time slot. It will be a familiar local voice.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Kirkpatrick responds when asked whether another conservative personality will fill the 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekday time slot. “It will be very different than The Ross Report.”

[UPDATE: The station announced Friday that veteran broadcaster Bernadette Lee’s new show, UpClose with Bernadette Lee, will replace The Ross Report.)

Ross is a fixture of Lafayette’s conservative activism, and her show has been a frequent call-in vehicle for right-wing spin on local, state and national topics. Mayor-President Josh Guillory has been a rather frequent caller, using the show as a friendly platform to discuss his policies and initiatives coming out of his administration. Ross had been vocally wary of Guillory as a candidate.

A COVID-19 skeptic who is often controversial in her topics and tone, Ross made news of her own in early April when she attempted to organize a public gathering during the coronavirus lockdown to thank healthcare workers. At the time, the station distanced itself from Ross’s actions. “We have never and would never advocate for people to gather during this time,” Kirkpatrick told The Current. The brand manager made clear today that the April stunt had nothing to do with Ross’s departure. “It was honestly very amicable and really no other issue than [the on-air mishap],” he says. “Not dramatic at all.”

The status of Ross’s producer, an equally provocative conservative voice, Mark Pope, is less clear. “He didn’t work for us,” Kirkpatrick says. “He worked for her.”

Pope does do some sports producing at the station, mostly for UL, Kirkpatrick says, “so obviously that’s at a standstill right now.” Pope ran unsuccessfully for the Lafayette City Council in November, losing in a runoff to District 1 incumbent Pat Lewis. Pope did not immediately respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.

Ross herself ran for the then-consolidated Lafayette council in 2015, losing in the primary to Liz Hebert and Gerald Judice, two political newcomers. Hebert went on to win the consolidated seat and was elected to the new City Council last year.

About the Author

A founding editor of both The Independent and ABiz and senior editor at The Times of Acadiana in the 1990s, Leslie Turk has worked in the newspaper business in Lafayette for almost three decades. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and The Acadiana Advocate. Email her at leslie@thecurrentla.com.

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