"They won’t have Don Harman to kick around anymore."
That’s how a Facebook message to me began from Overland Park mom and former school teacher Dena LeeAnne Campbell. They being some of Harman’s on-air co-hosts at Channel 4. Having watched Fox 4’s early morning show for years, "Something about him resonated with me," Campbell says of Harman.
And something about the interplay between Harman and some of the other anchors didn’t seem quite right to her.
"I just remember sometimes turning the TV off because it was so uncomfortable," Campbell says. "Particularly Mark Alford, but sometimes they would go too far with needling him. They’d make fun of what he was wearing, what he said. They used to needle him about his car. I don’t think it was malicious, but when they got on a roll teasing and needling him, it just didn’t stop. Isn’t that bullying?
"I don’t think he killed himself because of that. He killed himself because he suffered from depression, but I don’t think that helped. I don’t think he liked it. He joked around at some point but there was a point that you could see that he didn’t lke it. He was always the butt of everyone’s joke."
Campbell points to a weepy on-camera discussion last week between co-anchors Alford, Loren Halifax and Nick Vasos following Harman’s death as evidence of teasing gone too far.
"We always knew how to push his buttons," Alford said.
"You were a pro," Halifax added.
"You walked him right up to the edge, didn’t you?" Vasos concluded.
Was Harman’s on-air teasing mean-spirited?
"I don’t know, I can’t say that," Campbell says. "It might have been simply to get ratings. I’m no psycologist but I’m a very empathetic person. But yeah, I think it would have aggrivated his depression. I don’t know, maybe Fox should do a show on workplace bullying."
Campbell could be onto something…
"There is a lot of off the record stuff, Hearne," says one local television broadcast journalist. "I just know his work relationships were not good, except for his with Joe Lauria where they were good friends."
"I saw some tension when they going back and forth," says one local businessman who asked not to be named. "Don said something about not wanting to be on probation and he said to Alford, ‘Maybe you and I just shouldn’t be talking to each other.’ I saw that a couple days before he died – there was a little tension there – and Mark didn’t say anything. He just stared straight ahead and there was silence and then they went right into the weather. It felt uncomfortable to watch."
"Maybe I’m wrong – I’m no psychologist – but I’ve had a few dodge balls thrown at me and if I was looking for a reason to live, that wouldn’t have helped," Campbell says. "Here’s the bottom line; the way you treat people, the way you talk to them – I believe it has an impact and it can hurt."