News Anchor Frank Somerville Says He Was ‘Trashed’ on DUI Taco Bell Run
Frank Somerville had a rough 2021—and he’s finally ready to talk about it on camera. The veteran Bay Area newsman, whose awful year culminated in drunkenly slamming his Porsche into another vehicle on Dec. 30, sat down with San Francisco outlet KRON4 to speak for nearly 30 minutes about the months leading up to the crash.
“It all came to a head when I got the DUI,” he said.
Somerville is a well-known face in the Bay Area, having begun broadcasting on his longtime station KTVU in 1992, ascending to become a co-anchor by 2008. In June 2021, though, he gave a broadcast in which he noticeably slurred his words, leading to a viral clip, national headlines, and a leave of absence.
In a Facebook post reflecting on the situation more than a year later, Somerville claimed for the first time that “as messed up as I was I didn’t drink on the air.” Instead, he said, he’d accidentally taken two powerful sleeping pills. “How I even made it home that night is beyond me,” he wrote.
It was a claim he reiterated on Wednesday in his KRON4 interview. “I was taking what I thought was one of my prescription drugs; instead, it was two Ambien,” he said.
The anchor went on to acknowledge long-standing issues with substance abuse, saying he’d used drugs and alcohol “almost every night” at the height of his addiction. “I was so sad and lonely from the divorce and missing my kids and the pandemic sure as hell didn’t help because now, I was all alone,” he said. “I was a total mess.”
After more than two months of what a spokesperson for his parent network called “medical leave,” a period which Somerville said he spent in a rehabilitation facility, he was back on the air. But in September, he was suspended indefinitely after disagreeing with the station bosses about how to cover the Gabby Petito murder, which was then a missing-person case.
Somerville, who has a Black daughter, wanted to add a 46-second “tag” to an update on the Petito story that recognized the racially disproportionate media coverage of Black and white crime victims. The tag was cut—over Somerville’s protestations—by producers after newsroom editors expressed misgivings about it, a source told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. Somerville was suspended the next day.
“I thought the coverage across the country of Gabby Petito was insane,” he told KRON4. “There was no reason for it other than she was a cute white kid. But for some reason, I was suspended over that. I still, to this day, am not sure why.”
For a while, his fate seemed suspended, but in November, Somerville told the Bay Area News Group that he was “never going to anchor” at KTVU again. His contract with the station expired in 2022.
Then, a month later, came the crash. After rear-ending another vehicle and plowing through a busy intersection, pushing the other car into a pole, the dazed anchor was booked on DUI charges, with court charging documents showing that his blood alcohol concentration was 0.24 percent. (The legal limit in California is 0.08 percent.)
Somerville has “absolutely no recollection of the accident,” he told KRON4. “I was close to as comatose as you can be,” he said.
10 P.M. TONIGHT: Renowned Bay Area anchor Frank Somerville became the story himself in December 2021, when he was involved in a DUI crash that was caught on video and went viral. Now, he opens up to KRON4 in his first TV interview since the arrest. https://t.co/LPhWcLtvzF pic.twitter.com/JQKekShtaJ
— KRON4 News (@kron4news) March 29, 2023
The anchor said that he’d spent much of the evening drinking himself into a near-stupor. “It was Christmastime,” he said. “I was away from my family. I didn’t see them at all over the holidays. It was just a really sad time, and so I got—I got trashed. There’s no other way to say it, I got trashed in my apartment.”
Then, hungry for Taco Bell, he climbed into his Porsche. “I had absolutely no business at all to drive—at all,” he told KRON4, adding later that he wishes he could apologize to the other driver, who was slightly injured in the crash.
Somerville told the Chronicle on Wednesday that he is currently focused on his recovery and staying sober from drugs, though he told KRON4 he still has the occasional alcoholic drink. “It’s a work in progress,” he added.
As for his future, Somerville said, he may try teaching, or go back to television news, though he acknowledged that a return may not be totally up to him.
“It all depends on a station hiring me, which requires a station taking a chance on me,” he told the Chronicle. “I come with a background. I made a huge mistake.”
“At the same time,” he added after a pause, “I’m a damn good anchor.”
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