MPT acted `deceptively,' Rukeyser says

April 05, 2002|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN TELEVISION WRITER

Louis Rukeyser made clear his disdain for his former employers at Maryland Public Television on CNN last night, saying they had acted "stupidly and deceptively and gracelessly" in forcing him from the anchor's chair he had held for 32 years on Wall Street Week.

As his contract's end neared, he told Larry King, MPT officials never suggested a single specific change and didn't inform him of the intent to team up with Fortune magazine on the new version of the show. He said that the program had remained relatively strong in the ratings and that the desire to overhaul the show made little sense.

"If they'd come to me last year and said, `Lou, we think it's time to wind this up,' I would've have said sure," Rukeyser said. "We would have had a graceful exit, we'd have said nice things about each other."

Rukeyser promised to announce a show on a new outlet next week. With a sardonic grin, the longtime economics observer said he looked forward to competing with MPT's new generation of Wall Street Week and dismissed the significance of Fortune as a partner.

Additionally, Rukeyser said he was exploring possible legal action against MPT, contending it violated his rights to free speech, among other things, by firing him last weekend after he told viewers that he had been "ambushed" by the Maryland public broadcaster. He had initially been offered a role as a senior commentator, one that he quickly rejected.

Interviewed by telephone after the CNN program, MPT President and Chief Executive Officer Robert J. Shuman argued that Rukeyser had been resistant to all suggestion of change.

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Rukeyser continues to mischaracterize the circumstances surrounding his departure," Shuman said. "The decision to refresh and reinvigorate the program was based on comments we shared with Louis from members, programming directors and viewers. No program can remain stagnant over the three decades that Wall Street Week has been here."

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