By Brian Stelter, CNN Business
Fox News has parted ways with a host who dismayed fellow staffers when she came to work while visibly sick in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.
Heather Childers, who had been an early morning host on Fox since 2012, was benched after the incident in late March. She was not put back on the air again — despite her public campaign on Twitter and her messages to President Trump.
This week, after sources said that Childers was no longer affiliated with the network, a Fox spokeswoman confirmed her exit.
“Fox News and Heather Childers have parted ways. We wish her all the best,” the spokeswoman told CNN Business.
The unusual circumstances of her exit are a window into the television news industry’s adjustments due to the pandemic.
Fox News has been especially highly scrutinized since many of its highest-rated stars downplayed the dangers of Covid-19 during key periods in February and March, when the virus was silently spreading across the United States.
Shows like “Fox & Friends” frequently sided with President Trump’s proclamations that the virus was under control and that it would somehow disappear.
During the week of March 16, when life in New York City and other major metro areas crawled to a halt, Fox’s coverage turned more serious. Fox executives instituted work-from-home plans and limited the number of people who were allowed at the network’s headquarters.
Childers led the 4 a.m. hour of “Fox & Friends First,” the network’s first live program of the day. On March 18, she was noticeably sick both on and off camera, which caused concern among the staffers who were still coming into the building, sources said.
Childers visited a doctor after the show and said on Twitter that she was fine. She came back to work and hosted her hour on March 19.
But Fox executives were angry that she came to work while visibly ill, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. That’s why she was sidelined beginning on March 20.
As days turned to weeks, Childers began to lobby for a return to her show via her Twitter account. In a tweet on March 31, she admitted to “coughing & sneezing on air,” but said she “never went to work feeling sick.” She was tested for Covid-19, was found to be negative, and sent those results to Fox management.
By April 6, she tweeted that she had tested negative twice, and was in the dark about when she might be back on TV. She shared numerous supportive messages from fans, and sometimes she tweeted directly to Trump, pleading her case.
“I’d love to go back to work @realDonaldTrump,” she tweeted April 9, “but the antibody tests only show positive if you have had the virus. I’ve had TWO negative COVID19 tests results & no symptoms.” She tweeted: “Can I go back to work?”
On April 19, she tweeted to the president again: “Please get us all back to work.”
The answer from Fox, apparently, was no. Childers did not come back on TV. In July she removed the Fox references from her social media profiles and shared content from Fox’s right-wing rivals instead.
Childers did not respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.
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