‘Not the way I was planning to leave:’ Jonathan Choe recounts his termination from KOMO
Former KOMO News reporter Jonathan Choe admits that he made a series of mistakes that led up to his termination from the Sinclair-owned media company, but he hopes second chances and the public’s good graces will allow him to continue to report on the “destruction” of Seattle perpetrated by what he calls “extreme actors.”
Last week, Choe live-tweeted a rally held in Olympia sponsored by the Capital City Proud Boys. In a recent blog post recapping his termination, Choe references the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of the group as an “extremist hate group, known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.” A photo montage reel of the rally Choe tweeted was scored to “We’ll Have Our Home Again,” written and produced by a member of The Mannerbund, designated as a white nationalist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“I’ve never heard this song in my life,” Choe told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “I didn’t even hear the lyrics. Because if you actually listened to the video, you can hear car horns, the pattern of feet, I was weaving in and out of this march, and you could hear this music blasting from a speaker. I put these photos on top of this video.”
Choe admits that it was a mistake to present the video without context such that his video could be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of the Proud Boy’s messaging and rhetoric latent in the song.
“If I could do it all over again, I would add more context, I would add more words, I don’t know, maybe I don’t do that video montage,” Choe continued.
“I think, really, for the state of journalism, we have to continue to … add context, we have to have a plan, we have to have a strategy for this type of stuff. We’re covering the extremes on either side. This is … a learning opportunity. This country is about second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth chances. So hey, I’m in line.”
Choe made it clear that he is interested in staying in media. While he did not disclose what his next steps might be, he sees his reporting as a public good that sheds light on extremist movements, be they Antifa or the Proud Boys.
“I want to continue to do the good journalism that is needed in this town,” Choe added. “My concern, though, is this chilling effect, that this could have — the intimidation tactics used by activists, that coordinated effort by my critics over the weekend to call the station to bombard the station with emails. That clearly, obviously was not a pleasant experience for my management team, no doubt.”
Evidence of that past reporting — as Choe explains in a recent blog post — include his filming of Antifa protests throwing Molotov cocktails at the East Precinct in 2020 as well as “simply trying to show what’s happening” in reference to Proud Boys rallies.
Others have claimed that Choe was already ready to depart KOMO at the time of the video, and recapped the white nationalist rally with the “We’ll Have Our Home Again” score as an implicitly flippant curtain call with the media company. Choe denies that allegation.
“This is not the way I was planning to leave KOMO News … By no means was I trying to get fired via a Proud Boys live-tweet rally,” Choe recounted.
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