Five days after Matt Drudge walked off a Fox News Channel
set when the producers of his Drudge program wouldn't let him show a
picture of a fetus undergoing surgery, the network said last Thursday that it canceled the
program, releasing the gossip reporter from his contract.
Drudge -- who lambasted FNC executives on his Web site and
in news reports after the Nov. 14 incident, calling them "week-kneed" suits --
also agreed to apologize to the network.
"In the heat of the moment, in pursuit of a story, I
made comments I regret about the innovative Fox News Channel and its executives. I look
forward to a continuing relationship with Fox News Channel for years to come, and I may
even make guest appearances on its programming from time to time," Drudge said in a
statement released by FNC.
Drudge couldn't be reached for comment.
His contract with FNC was set to expire in February 2001,
and it's believed that as part of his settlement with the network, the Internet
gossip reporter can't launch a show on another network until that date.
"We felt that Mr. Drudge was in breach of his
contract, but we accept his apology and respect his desire to leave television," FNC
vice president, news editorial John Moody said in a prepared statement.
Drudge's battle with FNC began when he wanted to use a
picture of a fetus undergoing spina bifida surgery to discuss partial-birth abortions,
sources said. FNC producers believed that the photo, which ran in The National Enquirer,
would have been a misrepresentation, they added.
FNC took some heat from television critics in June 1998
when it hired Drudge, who made a name for himself by breaking the President Clinton-Monica
Lewinsky scandal story.
But FNC has "no regrets" about signing Drudge,
spokesman Brian Lewis said. "He did some very good television for us. He was the
first Internet superstar, and we had him."
Nielsen Media Research ratings for Drudge dropped
from a 0.7 rating and 252,000 households in January to a 0.4 rating and 169,000 households
FNC said it won't run Drudge repeats, and the
network hasn't decided how it will replace the program, which ran Saturdays from 7
p.m. to 8 p.m. This past Saturday, the network planned to run an episode of The Edge
with Paula Zahn in the Drudge slot.