Dale Hansen, who for 38 years has been a fixture at WFAA-TV (Channel 8), where his tenure includes award-winning exposés and outspoken commentaries that gave him a national profile, announced Tuesday that he will leave the station in early September.
Reached at his home in Waxahachie, where he aired his sportscast during much of the pandemic, Hansen said, “All good things have to end at some point. I’ll be 73 in August.”
He added with a sigh, “I never wanted to work for the check,” saying that he’d come to feel increasingly that he was working mainly — maybe even solely — for a paycheck.
“I don’t have the enthusiasm and the energy for it that I used to have and that I need to have. That’s not fair to WFAA, and it’s not fair to the fans, and quite honestly, it’s not fair to me. So, it was time.”
For more than a year, Hansen aired his sportscast from his house. Recently, however, he returned to the WFAA studio in downtown Dallas.
“The pandemic, without question, played a role,” he said, in formulating his retirement timetable. “The pandemic changed my outlook on everything. It kind of sped up the process — if you will.”
In October, Hansen ruffled feathers even at his own station, when he said in a “happy talk” exchange with weatherman Pete Delkus: “If you have a woman like a co-anchor or a news director or a station manager, I think it’s a fantastic thing, because they work cheaper — and that leaves more money for you and me.”
That led to a rare apology from Hansen, who said contritely, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, “Sometimes, what I think is funny to say — though it’s not necessarily what I believe — goes too far.”
Asked whether the dustup had anything to do with his retirement announcement, Hansen said, “Not directly. Maybe some. The better way I would answer it is, had that not happened, would I have retired? Probably. But then again, much like the pandemic, that did push me in that direction, if that makes any sense.”
He waxed regretful in saying, “Obviously, I wish that had not happened. I wish I hadn’t said it. But I can’t take it back now.”
Having to return to commuting via Interstate 35E was apparently also a factor in his decision.
It is, he said with his characteristic belly laugh, “One horrific highway right now!”
Not that retiring will be easy. Hansen sees it, as do most people, as an advanced stage in the life of a human being, one that comes without a precise road map of what to expect.
He admitted that his wife, whom he refers to on-air as “the lovely Mrs. Hansen,” and even some of his friends, “are concerned that I’ll sit in a recliner all day and watch the two remaining shows on Netflix that I haven’t yet seen. I don’t think I’m going to do that. I’m certainly going to try not to do that. But, yes, the pandemic changed my whole outlook on a lot of things.”
Hansen has enjoyed so many high points during a nearly four-decade career at Channel 8, and many of those involve his biting commentaries. In the parlance of the day, they went viral, even crazy-viral, and led to profiles in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
But the biggest topper may have been his being invited as a guest on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. And the reason she invited him was for what Hansen calls his favorite commentary — an impassioned defense of football player Michael Sam, who is gay.
During his “Unplugged” on Sam, Hansen said: “You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes. We know they’re welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away. You lie to police, trying to cover up a murder. We’re comfortable with that. You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far.”
The Sam commentary remains his favorite, Hansen said, noting that “Unplugged” became his passion in more ways than one. “I care a great deal more about the commentaries than I do whether the Mavericks are the fifth or sixth seed in the playoffs.”
Not that they appealed to all Channel 8 viewers, many of whom are politically conservative. The worst reaction he ever provoked came, he says, when he spoke out passionately on behalf of gun control. Death threats soon followed.
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SOURCE: Dallas Morning News – Michael Granberry