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Mark Giangreco on his way out at ABC7 after ‘ditzy’ on-air remark

ABC7 is working on a separation agreement with the longtime sports anchor after he jokingly referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as “ditzy” on a newscast Jan. 28, according to sources.

ABC7

ABC7 is working on a separation agreement with longtime sports anchor Mark Giangreco after he jokingly referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as “ditzy” on a newscast Jan. 28, according to sources. Burton complained to station management, which has kept Giangreco off the air ever since. He also hasn’t made his regular appearances on ESPN 1000.

At the end of his last sports segment, Giangreco, 68, showed a video of a hockey player on roller blades sanding drywall with the butt end of a hockey stick and shooting a puck into a garbage can with the blade end. Said Giangreco: “Gotta get him a show on DIY Network. We’ll call it ‘House Fix with Sticks,’ and Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator. I got it all worked out.”

Giangreco, who has 18 months left on his contract, has been the most prominent sportscaster in Chicago for decades. He arrived at NBC5 in 1982 and moved to ABC7 in ’94. He always has shown a quick wit and sarcastic sense of humor on the air, and it endeared him to many viewers. But there has been tension between Giangreco and Burton for years, according to sources, and this appears to have been her breaking point.

Others who have worked with Giangreco have brushed off similar remarks as playful. Considering Burton complained to management, it’s fair to question whether management would have done anything had she not, knowing Giangreco’s persona.

That isn’t to defend him for the remark, especially in a time when many media types have paid the price for their words on the air or on social media. Sensitivities have been heightened everywhere. But if the station allowed issues to fester between the two, even the slightest derision could have been received in the worst way.

Plus, Giangreco and Burton have become so big at the station that perhaps both have felt invincible. But times have changed dramatically since the heyday of local news. The money, ratings and star power aren’t what they used to be, and Giangreco’s expected ouster will send shockwaves through the local industry and serve as a warning: If Giangreco can be let go, anyone can.

If some of Giangreco’s previous transgressions occurred today, he wouldn’t have survived them. His most notable one came in 1999, when he said former Bears running back Walter Payton looked like Gandhi, not knowing Payton had a liver disease that would kill him that year. Giangreco apologized profusely for the mistake, and Payton called to forgive him.

In 2004, after the Pistons won the NBA title, he aired a black-and-white video of fires and joked that it was “a typical night in Detroit.” The station suspended him for week. Most recently, in 2017, Giangreco reportedly was suspended for multiple weeks without pay for calling former President Donald Trump a “cartoon lunatic” and the United States a “country full of simpletons” in a tweet.