By Liam Reilly, CNN
New York (CNN) — Nexstar, the nation’s largest operator of local TV stations, said Thursday it is conducting an investigation after a news director at a Michigan station told its journalists to scale back its Pride Month coverage and “get both sides” on LGBTQ issues, saying their “polarizing” nature had upset some of its conservative viewers.
“We’re looking into the situation at WOOD-TV, as the communication regarding the station’s coverage of PRIDE month activities in the area is not consistent with Nexstar’s values, the way we cover the news, or the respect we have for our viewers,” the company said in a statement to CNN.
Nexstar added that it will “take appropriate action as necessary to address this situation” and said that it “apologize[s] for offending members of the LGBTQ community and WOOD-TV’s viewers.”
The investigation comes after news staff at the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based NBC affiliate received a memo on Tuesday from the assistant news director, Amy Fox, titled “June Pride Month,” that said the station had received pushback from viewers “who are not happy to see those Pride-related stories.”
“We need to recognize that some stories related to LGBTQ issues are going to be controversial and polarizing in our community,” Fox wrote. “While you personally may not agree with a certain position, people are entitled to their opinions and they are our viewers.”
“If we are covering Pride events we need to consider how to make the story balanced and get both sides of the issue,” she added.
Fox further emphasized the need to examine the “newsworthy-ness” of Pride events before covering them, saying that the station doesn’t “cover every event or festival that happens in West Michigan.”
Fox did not respond to a CNN request for comment.
The memo came days after the station covered an inaugural Pride festival in the city of Grand Haven that drew thousands of attendees. While events recognizing Pride Month are underway across the nation, right-wing media figures and outlets have launched a series of attacks on the celebrations and companies that support LGBTQ causes, including Bud Light and Target, portraying them as “woke” and falsely claiming they are “grooming” children with radical ideology.
A journalist at the station, who asked not to be identified, told CNN that several employees responded to the memo via email to voice their disapproval.
“Our newsroom immediately stood up to the 2 managers who wrote a memo mandating that we cover ‘the other side’ of Pride events,” WOOD-TV anchor Michele DeSelms wrote on Twitter. “Essentially requiring us to give equal time to hate and discrimination.”
“We said no, and will continue to fight for our LGBTQ colleagues, family members, friends and the community,” she continued. “This fight is not over. Please know we are standing up for what’s right, standing strong together and we will not let hate win.”
Luke Stier and Madeline Odle, executive producers at the station, also publicly expressed outrage over the directive.
“The guidance is not being followed,” Stier tweeted. “The only two people involved in its creation have been removed from any discussions surrounding @WOODTV Pride coverage as our corporation conducts a thorough investigation.”
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