Aug 27, 2013 10:30AM
By Bailey Hemphill
It all made the ugly rumors that surfaced about him after WOWT did not renew his contract last December more unsettling. With Flowers suddenly off the air and no official word from station management explaining his absence (due to contractual reasons), anonymous social media speculation filled the information void. The chatter was mostly innocuous, but some alleged Flowers had been caught in a 2012 FBI sting operation targeting a local massage parlor fronting for a prostitution ring. It’s not the image a public figure like Flowers can afford, especially when looking for a new job.
Flowers, who flatly denies involvement in any illegal activity, believes a parlor client used his name when procuring sexual services. Unfortunately, Flowers found his good name sullied when the sting broke.
"...in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility...just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”Despite the cloud, Flowers landed at KMTV. He debuted there June 3 as part of a long-term contract he reached with the station, thus making him perhaps the only on-camera talent to have worked at each of Omaha’s three major network affiliates.
The Ohio native and Penn State University grad came to Omaha in 1982 to work at KETV from a TV weathercaster post in South Carolina. After 10 years, he moved to WOWT. He was there 20 years, the last several as chief meteorologist.
He says he and his wife found Omaha to be “a great place to raise kids.” Even though their boys are now men, he says all the roots he and Barb put down here and all the relationships they built here make it a hard place to shake.
But in the wake of what happened over the winter, he seriously considered moving to another market.
With his exit from WOWT fueling the gossip mill, he posted Facebook and TVSpy responses that reflected his resolve to lay the tittle tattle to rest.
“…I have never been involved in a massage parlor prostitution investigation. I have not been arrested, questioned, or told by the authorities that I am a suspect [a statement confirmed by Omaha Magazine with Omaha Police Department public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney]…those lies have been very hurtful to me, my wife of 34 years, and our family…I appreciate the loyalty of the many fans who have continued to support me, and I want to assure them that there is nothing behind those rumors.”
He more extensively addressed the situation in June 3rd guest spots on the Todd-N-Tyler radio show and KM3’s own, The Morning Blend.
“Doing that interview with Todd-N-Tyler literally put an end to it,” he says.
But when the rumors were still fresh, they stung. “When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing. Some folks want to bring people down, for whatever reason. It’s the human psyche.”
“When this first happened, I was like my life has been an open book, people know me, who’s going to believe this stuff? Obviously, people do, and that was the surprising part of the whole thing."His initial reaction was to get mad.
“The first thing you feel is anger because you know you’re not a part of it. That’s what’s frustrating. It had an effect more on my wife and my family, especially my two boys. My two boys were angry…They wanted to find out who used my name, how the stuff got out there.”
His wife has had his back the whole way. She offered this statement about the rumors: “I knew it wasn’t true. It was hurtful to me and my family to think that people would believe those rumors about Jim. I would like to thank those that supported us with positive comments.”
Flowers, an outdoorsman who loves fishing, hunting, and chasing storms, isn’t the type to run scared, but there was little he could do about this.
He gained insight into how his name got dragged into the mud when he contacted authorities, none of whom could speak to the specific case, then active in the judicial system. However, they did lay out a likely scenario.
“I was told by the Omaha Police Department’s public information officer Lt. Darci Tierney that, in general, this is the way it works. The guys that go [to massage parlors] wind up on a list. They don’t use anything that will identify themselves. They don’t use credit cards, they don’t use checkbooks, and they don’t use their real names. She said, ‘Obviously, someone decided to use your name and guess what, now you’re a part of it.’ I said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and she said ‘no.’”
He says the local FBI office and U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp confirmed the same.
Unfortunately for Flowers, someone used his familiar name. It comes with the territory of being a public figure.
“Our exposure to this kind thing is not unusual, but this form and how it took off seemed to have a life of its own,” he says. “The constraints that exist for print, television, and radio don’t exist for social media. There are no checks and balances out there. So if there’s a lesson, it’s that, in social media, people can say anything about anyone they please without identifying themselves or taking responsibility. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”
He’s satisfied with how he’s managed the incident. “You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out. The night before I went on The Blend and Todd-N-Tyler, I told my wife, ‘I’m starting tomorrow [on KM3], and I feel really excited about it. There’s all these opportunities. But the one thing that’s still out there is this whole rumor thing. I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”
He says he and Barb put their “very strong faith in God” that this bad dream would disappear. “I’ve had people compliment me and say you handled it professionally.”
KMTV General Manager Chris Sehring is pleased how it all worked out, too. “Jim’s a great guy, and we are thrilled to finally have him on our KMTV Weather Alert team.”
“You take the high ground and have faith that things will work out...I don’t know where, I don’t when, and I don’t know how, but at some point in time this thing will be put to rest.”Though Sehring couldn’t comment on what steps the station took or on how much the incident played in its hiring decision, he did say, “Journal Broadcast Group is second to none in its commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards. I still believe we live in a society where one is innocent until proven guilty…It’s truly a shame Jim and his family have had to endure these unsubstantiated rumors and malicious speculation. After all, it could happen to any of us.”
Both Sehring and Flowers are focused on making KM3, currently in last place in the ratings, number one. Flowers helped bring both KETV and WOWT to the top spot and feels confident he can work magic a third time.
“I’ve been down this road before. I know what it takes to win,” says Flowers. “Whoever wins weather in Omaha wins the ratings; that’s what it boils down to. You can ask every general manager, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s not only in Omaha; it’s in a lot of weather-sensitive markets. I didn’t decide that, the public did.”
He feels his experience and attention to detail set him apart from other weathercasters in this market.
So do his fishing skills. Once a competitive bass tournament champion, he takes his boat and fishing gear out these days purely for relaxation. With the rumors behind him, he’s forecasting nothing but clear skies and calm waters ahead.
Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.