WLOSer King ignites ire in Gatlinburg following press conference


An Asheville television reporter’s insistent questioning at a Friday press conference in Gatlinburg regarding devastating wildfires there this week raised the ire of local officials, and sparked anger in residents.

WLOS-TV reporter Kimberly King covered Friday’s press conference in Gatlinburg, which included Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. The fire has been blamed for 13 deaths and the destruction of at least 1,000 structures, homes and businesses.

But the update ended abruptly after several pointed questions from King, WATE.com reported.

King accused someone of “dropping the ball” when it came to fire and evacuation preparedness, the ABC-affiliate reported. She asked who battled the initial blaze (which started along a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and who forecasted weather conditions for the weekend. Officials answered that there was no “dropping the ball” and that helicopters were dropping water on the fire, and that there were appropriate resources allocated to fight the blaze early on.

King continued, noting that she covered a wildfire in Lake Lure where people were evacuated “and no one died, thankfully, in those fires. Officials responded again, then Mayor Waters stepped in:

“I think what we are getting into is folks that don’t know this area and are Monday morning quarterbacking,” said Waters. “We are not going to get into that right now, because we did the best… we’re not going to into Monday morning quarterbacking right now. That will be something when we have the evaluation that we’ll certainly take a look at and ask these questions.”

Hundreds of online commenters immediately criticized King, calling her out as insensitive and calling for her firing. More than 8,000 people have signed a Change.org online petition calling for WLOS to fire King.

WLOS issued the following statement in response, according to WATE.com:

“We at WLOS News13 stand with all the people and first responders in Tennessee, battling the historic and deadly wildfires around Gatlinburg. We remain committed to covering this tragic story to the best of our ability, reflecting the highest standards of journalism. We always encourage feedback on ways we can best serve our audiences.”

The Knoxville News has reported that Tennessee officials confirmed that the order to evacuate Gatlinburg amid Monday night’s deadly firestorm was not sent to mobile devices in the area.

The citywide evacuation was broadcast only on area TV and radio, according to the newspaper, and when it came, it was several hours after the flames had swept into Gatlinburg.


Lisa Radmore December 8, 2016 - 12:01 pm

I live between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I lost a neighbor to that fire. No one told me to evacuate, but I did. I agree the question needs to be asked and I agree that people here are anxious to learn more. But, the timing was inappropriate. The reporter seemed to be more concerned about being seen and furthering her career. We are still looking for people here. People need to give us a break. There will be plenty to learn from this and we need time to just breathe. I am a woman and many of my lady friends have the same prospective – so enough about the “good ole boys” mentality.

JOE December 8, 2016 - 6:09 am


BMacAVL December 6, 2016 - 11:34 am

Look at the Mayor attempting to take the mic the entire conference…dude is in the wrong and is worried about backlash! http://wate.com/2016/12/02/no-monday-morning-quarterbacking-sevier-county-mayor-defends-accusations-city-dropped-ball/

Sevier County Courthouse 125 Court Avenue, Suite 201E Sevierville, TN 37862-3596
Mayor Larry Waters
Phone: (865) 453-6136
Fax: (865) 453-6830
Email: lwaters@seviercountytn.org

Administrative Assistant
Debbie Litton
125 Court Avenue, Suite 201E
Sevierville, TN 37862-3593
Phone: (865) 453-6136
Email: dlitton@seviercountytn.org


Max Berson December 5, 2016 - 11:49 pm

Here’s a link to an editorial in the Knoxville paper today basically asking the same questions and more: http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/12/05/editorial-officials-must-address-questions-fire-alerts/94892746/

Maybe you just have issues with strong women who ask tough questions, Jason?

If half my city burns down, 13 plus people die, and there are no evacuation orders, maybe I should expect a few questions. Of course he’d rather get busy covering his ass. If I was a Gatlinburg property owner/tax payer, I’d be looking for his resignation or more.

Tammy December 5, 2016 - 11:07 pm

I think that her questions was out of line she’s a tacky woman and needs to be fired.

Nancy Mason December 5, 2016 - 10:02 pm

It seems like a bunch of good ol’ boys tryin’ to shut Kimberly King down for asking the right questions. They don’t like being questioned especially by a woman.

Eric December 5, 2016 - 5:41 pm

Her tone was confrontational and in poor taste. In listening to the conference, she seemed to be out to blame someone. Considering they still don’t know how many people died, it seemed like the wrong time and place.

And on that note… it’s a wildfire. A natural disaster. An act of God. It’s no one’s fault. (Except possibly the person who caused the fire.)

Stu Helm December 5, 2016 - 3:37 pm

“The Knoxville News has reported that Tennessee officials confirmed that the order to evacuate Gatlinburg amid Monday night’s deadly firestorm was not sent to mobile devices in the area.” Doesn’t that kinda sound like someone dropped the ball? It seems like she was just asking questions, and I support journalists who ask questions.

brian December 5, 2016 - 11:47 am

Larry Waters is the one you should be mad at, not Kimberly King. Why would he not answer the questions? These deaths are on his hands!

Andrew Gentry December 4, 2016 - 9:37 pm

Keep in mind these redneck drama queens are the type who would have stood with Ross Barnett and accused the “outside media” of being rude and unfeeling when questioning what Barnett and state officials were doing about the murder of civil rights workers in his state of Mississippi way back when!

N December 4, 2016 - 8:24 pm

It seems we have grown so accustomed to “reporters” acting as stenographers that we are shocked when one asks some actual questions in an effort to hold authorities accountable.

Harold December 4, 2016 - 6:36 pm

I did not see the full press conference but from the story, King did what journalists do. The “Monday morning quarterbacking” comment was snarky as if to say “Nothing to see here, move along,” possibly under the cover of the immediate grieving. It’s a press conference to discern the facts as known at the time. Later information appears to find fault with the mandatory evacuations being issued late and in an incomplete manner. These are serious indictments of state and local officials.
Good job by King.

Chris December 5, 2016 - 4:34 pm

Couldn’t agree more, Harold. Kudos to King! This sounds like a classic example of good ole boys protecting good ole boys. The winds that night had been predicted days in advance. Watching the interviews and footage from survivors it seemed that all of the residents were caught off guard by the blaze. City officials at the first press conferences were already selling the story of a “historic fire” where nothing could have been done. Bottom line is that the resources needed to protect the town and residents were not in place. My heart sincerely goes out to all of our neighbors in Gatlinburg that lost love ones. I can’t imagine the heartache they’re feeling. The city officials there need to get used to these types of questions. I’m sure they’ll be required to answer them in court.

Michele December 4, 2016 - 5:45 pm

People should have been notified to evacuate a lot sooner. No question. And not sending notification to mobile devices in this day and age? Irresponsible. Also? No reason for Kimberly King not to ask these questions. If those in charge are feeling any kind of guilt/responsibility for not getting people out sooner, that’s on them.

D. Dial December 4, 2016 - 1:14 pm

!3 people are dead, and no alert was sent out.

N December 4, 2016 - 12:13 pm

I guess we’ve become so used to “reporters” being stenographers that it is shocking when one asks actual questions in an effort to hold authorities accountable.

RobotDanceMonkey1975 December 3, 2016 - 7:18 pm

What a nasty woman!

Chris December 5, 2016 - 3:43 pm


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