DES MOINES, IOWA - Veteran television photographer Gerry Edwards of KGAN-TV in Center Rapids, Iowa, has been fired for urinating in a cemetery while covering the funeral of an Iowa soldier killed in Iraq, The Des Moines Register reported in today's newspaper.
But Edwards says he was unable to leave the scene to urinate for fear of missing the funeral possession, and testified recently at a state unemployment benefits hearing that he was "leaned on to get that shot."
In a story written by Register staff writer Clark Kauffman and published today, it's reported that Edwards was fired by KGAN-TV in December after he was sent to cover the funeral of Sgt. James Musack of Riverside, Iowa, who was killed in Iraq. The story says that another journalist, from a newspaper in Kalona, saw Edwards urinating on the ground near a cemetery monument while waiting for the funeral procession to arrive, and the photojournalist photographed Edwards in the act.
Later one of the newspaper's editors eMailed a picture of the incident to Edward's bosses at KGAN-TV, Kauffman says, along with a note: "Urinating behind a statue of Mary in a Catholic cemetery within clear view of a public road, not to mention the numerous members of the Army who were on hand for the funeral, is inexcusable."
Within hours Edwards was escorted out of KGAN-TV, the Register says, and he was given the choice to resign or be fired - and he refused to resign. KGAN-TV has not commented on the incident and the station manager told the newspaper that it was "a personnel matter."
The story is in today's Register because of the TV photographer's appeal for state unemployment benefits, a claim in which he says that he was unable to leave the cemetery for fear of missing the procession. An administrative law judge who heard the appeal for unemployment responded that the act of urinating in the cemetery was "disrespectful, unprofessional, and offensive."
The Register says at the hearing the photographer's position on the matter was that he "did nothing wrong except to take care of business ... If I went in my pants, that would be really unprofessional. If anybody saw me, you know, walking around — it would have froze. So I'd have icy urine on my pants."
According to the Register, Iowa state unemployment records show that Edwards was also in trouble with station managers last year because of his behavior in a cemetery during a service. On Memorial Day in 2006 he was at a cemetery shooting video of a memorial service and while standing outside a KGAN-TV van, records say, he was talking loudly on a cellular telephone when people attending the service asked him to be quiet. The Register says he responded to their requests with an offensive comment and said, "I've got a (expletive) job to do here, man. I've been here five hours already."
The state's records say that KGAN-TV received at least 17 complaints about the photographer's conduct that day.