There’s always been a part of me that felt badly for Larry Mendte. Right up until the time he strode to the microphone at his lawyer’s office late Friday afternoon.
Earlier in the day the longtime local TV news anchor had entered a guilty plea to charges that he tapped into the private e-mails of his co-anchor, Alycia Lane, and then leaked info to the media to portray her in a bad light.
Mendte could have simply said he was sorry, that there was no excuse for what he did, and thrown himself on the mercy of the court – and public. For the most part he did just that.
But apparently he simply could not leave it at that. So he strode to the microphones a few hours later at his lawyer’s office and promptly made like the Mets’ bullpen, throwing some gasoline on the fire.
Mendte made it clear his problems started with the arrival of Lane at the station, where he was the king of local news.
Mendte admitted that he and Lane had a “flirtatious, unprofessional and improper relationship.” He didn’t say they had an affair. Just what they had is unclear.
Just what he was trying to accomplish with this is equally unclear, at least to me. Lane’s attorney immediately fired back, threatening to sue Mendte if he characterized the relationship as an “affair,” which he vehemently denied ever happened.
I don’t know what exactly drove Mendte to make the statement he delivered. I don’t know if he was trying to make himself appear more of a victim, or if he was just trying to lob more dirt in Lane’s direction.
Here’s the entire text of what he said. Read it. Maybe you can understand what he was getting at. It strikes me as one final desperate play to justify his actions, which can’t really be justified and for which he rightly pleaded guilty.Text of statement by former TV news anchor Larry Mendte at news conference:
For thirty years, I have reported stories here in Philadelphia and across the country, and, now, I have become one through no one’s fault but my own.
My actions have hurt and disappointed my family, colleagues, friends, and viewers who trusted me, and for that, I am truly sorry.
My family has been incredibly strong and supportive. You will notice, however, that Dawn is not here with me today at this podium. She wanted to be, but I asked her not to. Although the image of my loving wife standing by my side may have helped me, I think it would hurt her. She still has to anchor the news, which she has done with remarkable personal strength and grace right through this process.
Having her here with me now would have pulled her directly into this intense media spotlight, and I will not do that to her. I have already done enough to her.
Let me explain. This whole episode started five years ago when Alycia Lane came to Philadelphia. Almost immediately, Dawn heard rumors that Alycia and I were a little too close and she should watch out.
The rumors were true. Alycia and I had a flirtatious, unprofessional, and improper relationship.
Dawn found proof of that relationship when she waited in my office on New Years Day 2005 and read e-mails that I had left out on my desk, e-mails between Alycia and me that confirmed her suspicions.
Dawn confronted me with the e-mails. I told her the truth. I told her I loved her, and I apologized. I then immediately stopped having long dinners with Alycia, staying out late with Alycia, and I stopped allowing her to come into my office to do her makeup every day.
The relationship that was once close quickly turned into a personal feud.
Alycia Lane then became friends with others in the building, including the new General Manager. Suddenly, I had shows and responsibilities pulled away from me without explanation. The GM angrily confronted me one day and said that I was bad-mouthing him. I was not. But, clearly, I was not on the list you want to be on with the new GM.
I found proof that it was Alycia who was undermining me when I saw an e-mail she sent to management that she left up on the computer she uses on the set.
I then started looking at other e-mails with passwords I learned when Alycia asked me to help set up her work retirement account, a private stock account, and when she showed me personal e-mails.
I did this without her permission, and it was wrong.
I saw more e-mails bad-mouthing me. I confronted Alycia and asked her to stop. She said that she would not. I complained to management about the problem, and I felt they ignored me.
My role at the station was still being diminished when Alycia told me during an argument on the set, that she (was) the rising star and that I was “50 and on my way out.” Regrettably this made it into the newspapers.
During a meeting the next day, the General Manager acknowledged that he had checked my contract and he really couldn’t move me.
We were the fastest growing newscast in the country. We were winning local and national awards. And, my GM was checking my contract to see where he could move me.
I felt I was in trouble. My career, my future, my family’s future was in trouble. And, this is where I got into more trouble — federal trouble.
I then started checking Alycia Lane’s e-mails by illegally gaining access to all of her accounts. I used a device called a keykatcher that is much too easily available on the Internet. I started seeing things that might be of interest to the press, and I passed some of them on.
I was not the source of every story about Alycia Lane or the sole source on many, but I was a source, and I was getting some of the information from her e-mails.
It was wrong. I admit it was wrong. I told you the motivation, but I make no excuses for my behavior.
And, that is why today I pled guilty to a federal charge brought by the U.S. attorney’s office. I have cooperated fully with the FBI and the U.S. attorney from the very beginning.
I have offered to give speeches to colleges, corporations, and community groups about Internet security. I make that offer publicly now.
My father used to say that everyone serves a purpose in life, if only as a bad example. I am now an example who can help others. Many employees and students are cavalier about misuse of the internet and e-mails. They don’t know that it is a federal crime and you will be prosecuted. I am living proof of that.
I know that pleading guilty and cooperating defies the new world order that teaches to deny, deny, deny at all costs.
Many people told me, maybe they’ll never find out the whole truth, with a good lawyer you might get away with it. I have a good lawyer. That’s not the point.
I just can’t do that to my family. I can’t allow this to drag on. And, I don’t think one more penny of the taxpayer’s money should be spent on this case.
Most importantly, I did it. I tell my children all of the time that if you don’t take responsibility, nothing will change. I am taking responsibility and am seeking help to change.
I apologize to Alycia Lane for what I did. And, I ask that this long mutually self-destructive feud now end. We have both paid a high cost. And, others have been hurt as well. I am sorry to all.
My wife also is owed apologies.
I will forever be in Dawn’s debt for her forgiveness and her loyalty. I will work every day to deserve her love, and I love her more everyday. The rest of my family also has been strong and loyal for me during this time. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
I want to apologize one more time to the viewers, the people who kept us on the air with their loyalty and their trust. I let you down. I hope the day will come when I will once again be worthy of your trust.
I do want to stay here in Philadelphia. I realize that I may never anchor here again, but I love this city far too much to move. This is where I grew up; this is where I want to raise my children. I don’t want to take this city from them because of my mistakes.
There is one last thing I would like to say. Many of you know I attended Catholic schools in the area. Confession is a big part of my faith. So is forgiveness. It is something we have all asked for at one time or another in our lives. I do so now, and, as always, I put my life in God’s hands.
On the advice of counsel, I regret to say, I will not be taking any questions.