Former "Miss USA" Frances Louise "Lu" Parker, a reporter and anchor for KTLA-TV Channel 5 in Los Angeles, has been dating Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa since March, but station executives are not worried about a conflict of interest, even though Parker's newscast last Sunday featured a story about Villaraigosa's gubernatorial prospects next year.
Parker, who has interviewed the mayor on several occasions as a KTLA reporter, will no longer be covering local politics, according to Channel 5 honchos. Villaraigosa is still experiencing political fallout from his extramarital affair in 2007 with former Telemundo KVEA-TV Channel 52 reporter/anchor Mirthala Salinas, and his divorce from Corina, his wife of 20 years, is not yet final.
Parker, according to her Web site, has worked as a TV actress, appearing on episodes of Monk, Bones, and Shark (a problem with multi-syllabic programming, perhaps) and on the silver screen in An American Carol. A former Miss South Carolina and 4th-place finisher in the Miss Universe Pageant, Parker is the author of "Catching the Crown." She also is an Emmy-winning tv reporter who previously worked at stations in Charleston and San Antonio. She has twice co-hosted the Hollywood Christmas Parade, something that Nellie Bly never did.
Villaraigosa, 56, a former speaker of the state assembly and city councilor, was elected mayor in 2005. He graduated from the unaccredited People's School of Law, but failed the California Bar Exam on four occasions. Salinas, 35, resigned from KVEA, rather than accept reassignment to Riverside after the scandal broke, and landed a talk show on AM radio.
It remains to be seen how Villaraigosa's penchant for nubile newsies will affect his political ambitions. However, Parker's superiors are way off-base on the conflict of interest issue. Setting aside power couple Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and former Federal Reserve Czar Alan Greenspan for the moment (and expunging any thoughts of their canoodling to prevent temporary blindness), despite journalists' best efforts to remain objective, the appearance of a conflict of interest is a problem, even if Parker isn't covering city politics. Any "scoops" by KTLA will raise questions of favored status and inside information from City Hall, and a raised eyebrow by a Channel 5 anchor reading a story about a Villaraigosa political opponent will elicit complaints of biased reporting.
Maria Shriver was relieved of her duties by NBC in 2004 when she became California's First Lady, but at least when she married Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was chasing Predators and playing a barbarian, not governing the nation's third-largest, most populous state.