PITTSBURGH, N.Y. – A Christian group complained to the Federal Communications Commission about a TV station's investigation of a minister who committed suicide after the station taped him entering an adult bookstore.
The group does not want KDKA-TV's license revoked, but said it should apologize to Rev. Brent Dugan's church "for the misleading promos and unfortunate lapse in journalistic reporting that led to the Rev. Brent Dugan's unfortunate death."
The FCC complaint, dated Monday and sent by a coalition of Christian denominations in the Pittsburgh area, argues that KDKA's promos "sentenced" Dugan before the presbytery had a chance to investigate and deal with his behavior.
The CBS affiliate issued a statement of condolences to Dugan's family and friends after his Nov. 3 suicide, and KDKA general manager Chris Pike would not comment beyond that.
Station officials have agreed to meet with church officials Feb. 20, said the Rev. James Mead, pastor of the Pittsburgh Presbytery, the governing body over Dugan's church.
Dugan overdosed on aspirin and alcohol in a motel room a few days after KDKA began airing promos showing his face and saying it would reveal his illicit behavior. The station announced a day before his death that it would not air the story because it had learned the pastor was missing and contemplating suicide, but it does not appear that Dugan had been aware of the decision.
In a last letter to the presbytery, Dugan acknowledged having a sexual relationship with a man and said that man set up his visit to an adult bookstore that was videotaped by KDKA, Mead said.
Dugan's letter expressed "profound sorrow and sadness, and sense of solemn grief and embarrassment, about what he thought would come to be known about his personal life," Mead said. Dugan also left several letters for friends, his congregation at Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon and others.
The group's letter to the FCC will be among material reviewed when KDKA's operating license is evaluated for renewal, but Mead said the group's intent is to shine light on Dugan's death and media ethics.