Leon Harris and Some Talk That Wasn’t Off-the-Record

By Jack Limpert

From today’s Washington Post:

Leon Harris, the anchor on WJLA (Channel 7), is leaving after 13 years, the station said Friday.

WJLA, known as ABC7, declined to comment on the reasons for Harris’s departure, which will become effective next month. Harris was unavailable for comment. Late Friday morning, he said that leaving WJLA was “not my choice.” He also wrote that 13 “great” years at WJLA were “not enough, but will have to be.”

Harris has been co-anchor of the station’s 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. He joined WJLA in 2003 from CNN, where he was an anchor.
In 2003 Robert Allbritton invited local editors and writers to the WJLA-TV offices in Rosslyn, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., to meet Leon Harris, the high-profile anchor that the ABC affiliate had hired from CNN in Atlanta.

I sat next to Harris at the luncheon and at one point we talked about Jim Vance, the longtime anchor at WRC-TV, the NBC station in Washington. Harris said it looked to him like Vance was tired—he said it looked like Jim “was mailing it in.”

I put Harris’s comment about Vance in the next issue of The Washingtonian and quickly got a call from Robert Allbritton, son of Joe L. Allbritton, the owner of WJLA, telling me that the luncheon had been off the record and I had shouldn’t have published the mailing-it-in quote. I said nobody had said anything about it being off the record. It was a short conversation.

Vance, WRC-TV’s co-anchor since 1972, gave up anchoring the station’s 11 o’clock news last year but continues to anchor the station’s 6 p.m. newscast.


  1. G.E. Phillips says

    I have noticed that ABC7 is culling out the experienced and dedicated reporters/journalists. Why are they taking away the very folks that we trust, for some “new” Ken & Barbie news readers? Shame on ABC7; and, I will have to seriously look at which station will earn my loyalty, and I will definitely let the various business’ know where my loyalty is making it’s home.

    • Cynthia B. says

      I totally agree! I just happened to notice today, ( October 23, 2017) that Leon was on Channel 4. So I will be watching channel b4 now for my local news.

  2. This makes absolutely no sense to me. And I’m definitely done with channel 7 news. Leon Harris was the main reason why I’ve stuck it out for so long because I liked the way he delivered the news (and he’s not bad on the eyes either). From my understanding letting him go had to do with some type of cutbacks? What I don’t understand is why, out of everyone on news 7 that have been absent just as much as they’ve been present, (exaggerating a bit I know) why Leon Harris? Why would you hire new people, to then decide you have to lay others off? And if layoffs were absolutely necessary, why not lay off the same people that you just hired. Not get rid of your best employees. You know nothing or very little about the work.ethics of the ‘newbies’. And you know so much more about you more ‘seasoned’ employees.There has got to be more to this that what’s between the lines and these lines make no sense, whichever way you slice it. Haven’t you all heard of the saying “Dont fix what isn’t broken?” So, I’m done with news 7 or WJLA or whatever you call yourself. And from.what I’ve read, I’m not the only ex WJLA enthusiasts that’s jumping ship. Good luck!

    • Barbara H. Stubbs says

      Denise, you are so right on what u said because letting Leon Harris go, God will be with him , I think that is so wrong I am done with news 7 or WJLA , I also love Alison, that work with Mr. Leon Harris . BHStubbs!!!!!!!!

      • Allison will keep her job. Because she is married to NBC Correspondent Peter Alexander. I think he is a White House Correspondent. That’s why she will keep her job. Not fair how Leon was let go!


      • I feel the same way. I’m going to find a new channel to get my news from. They have gotten rid of the most experienced and interesting, along with Leon, Tim B., Jennifer D., Josie S..and the list goes on. I guess they don’t care about their ratings. Sorry Allison your one of my favorites but I have to go.

  3. B I G mistake letting Leon Harris leave. He is an excellent newscaster and, with Alison Starling — the best local reporters on the air. And what will become of Harris’s Heroes? Leon was an asset to your station, and I hope he will be HIRED soon and locally, and that whoever made the decision to release him will be FIRED soon.

    • Yes,
      That news outlet is history for me as well. Leon Harris is the best. God be with Mr. Harris😇. Most recently, channel 4 did something similar. Jim Vance escaped being fired by a small fate. They fired some of the best reporters.

      I can not bring myself to tune in to channel 4 news. WJLA probably made Leon Harris sign a waiver . Because he has yet to call them out. Bring back Lein Harris. Ratings will continue to fall and for me, loyalty is out the window.

  4. I can’t believe Leon Harris, one of the best reporters in this area and the main reason I stayed up to look at Channel 7 11 p.m news, has been let go. For some reason I knew it wasn’t his decision as he is so dedicated to his job and the community. Shame on whoever made this unwise decision. I wish him all the best and pray that he is hired by a local news station.

  5. Leon’s knowledge, professionalism, and overwhelming connection to viewers will be missed. I do not know if the executives realize how much he is respected and loved.

  6. Leon was the reason that I watched the 11:00 news first…Now what? Best wishes Leon, (Now stop reading this crap & go watch a cat video:). Don’t worry, we’ll be there for you where ever you are!!

  7. Rosie Olson says

    Very perplexed as to reason Leon Harris was removed from WJLA/channel 7 news. Hope someone will elucidate!

  8. Jeanne B. Goshen says

    I’ll never understand the philosophy that’s developed in business in this country. When people, especially talented people, get to a certain age or look or make a certain salary, they are deleted. No matter the experience, the heart, the knowledge or gift the person has for the job and/or community, they are tossed out. Leon Harris is the reason we watched Channel 7. We’ve tossed out your news channel. Obviously, whomever makes the decisions at Channel 7 needs to be fired. Bet they are a millenial!

  9. To bad viewers can’t fire WJLA’s owners. I can tell that changes at WJLA have not been for the better in the last few years. We lost a great anchor, Gordon Peterson, our funny and exciting sports caster, and now Leon Harris. I guess Allison Starling, Maureen Bunyan and/or Doug Hill are next. We will surely switch to another news network.

  10. Amy Trolle says

    If this was a money move, the company that owns Channel 7 made a HUGE mistake! The best thing on the news team was Leon. He was like the local Cronkite. You will lose viewers to Channel 5 now! And Larry in the AM? Please! Worst newsreader ever, but nice suits.

    • C. Dickerson says

      What is with you people, why are so many of you stuck on stupid. You have lost your minds and me as a viewer of channel 7 news.

      • Huge mistake by the WJLA program director to allow Leon Harris departure. Where in the world will you find a talent equal to Leon Harris? Fox news will overtake WJLA without Leon Harris!

  11. Leon Harris was the best news anchor that WJLA has ever had and since you appear not to be concerned about keeping your best personnel you have and will continue to lose viewers. I have no respect for and no desire to continue to watch your stations.

  12. Cannot believe that wjla let Leon Harris go!! Don’t they learn from history that this is the path to lost viewership? Years ago channel 9 was the number one station in town. Then they let Gordon Peterson go and several other on air talent go. The station never recovered. Channel 7 hired most of these beloved newscasters. Now channel 7 is making the same mistake. Bye bye loyal viewers!!

  13. Patricia Davis says

    Leon was (is!) such a humble, personable gentleman. His laugh, his sincerity, his dedication have been enormously missed. And as others have commented, Gordon Peterson’s departure was a tremendous loss to many viewers, including myself. The banter between him and the other newscasters was hilarious! Gad, with all the rotten news being broadcast, Gordan and Leon’s presence lightened my heart. Yep, Channel 7, ABC, gone-zo!

  14. Loretta Browner says

    I agree with all the above views. I am gone also.

  15. bea wiesner says

    Bea says: I miss Leon Harris and hope another channel will hire him soon. It’s wjla’s loss.

  16. I still miss Leon Harris. I am so disappointed with ABC 7 News.
    It’s sad.

  17. Too bad Leon Harris is no longer with ABC7 News in Washington, DC

  18. It saddens me to think that leon who has dedicated so much love commitment and help to our youth our future was not only kept as an example for future jounalist but givena raise and his own talk show about his sucess in reaching our youth we all loved him is this right no its so so so wrong

  19. denise d-B says

    i returned east late october, and –as always– waited for “my” newscast to see Leon and Alison. big disappointment, no Leon. after a week-plus of “no Leon,” i finally googled…

    i echo those who ask if the powers-that-be at wjla have lost their minds? Alison is nice, as is Doug Hill; but the Harris-Starling duo was great (as was Tim Brant).

    wjla news is NOT the same, and this seems to be just another example of a large corporate action without regard to the preferences of viewers.

    hoping Leon takes a position elsewhere, i AM a loyal fan. i no longer tune-in just to watch wjla news, but watch various newscasts — depending on what channel happens to be on.

    yet another tradition bites the dust.

    • I really miss Leon Harris I searched the Internet looking for him and what happen to him now I know ,shame on you channel 7.

  20. J Baskette says

    I miss Leon Harris on Channel 7 newscasts. He was a class act, and we had someone capable of being a national news anchor. Sinclair Broadcasting is the guilty party for his demise. I wonder how gal Wendy Rieger is doing over at Channel 4? Remoting over to her broadcast now….

  21. June Langley says

    I still can’t believe Leon Harris is gone. He was one of the most smart, classy and compassionate reporters on Channel 7 to date. I loved the Harris-Starling team. It pains me to say that the rest of Channel 7’s news team – mostly robotic. Time to move on to another channel!

  22. I and my Family were wondering where Leon Harris
    went we haven’t seen him reading the news for some time
    We decided to google him to our surprise he was let go!!!
    Hard to Farthom but Mr. Leon Harris whichever station
    Hires you I will be watching …. I left NBC now I am Leaving
    ABC for good.

  23. Kaye Stewart-Bailey says

    I just read the reason why our classy Leon Harris was released from ABC. Shame on ABC and Jack Limbert, if he was the one who posted this information. You all could had depleted and persons career for what! To basically repeat a comment, because it was a slow news day…This so discussing and I to am done with ABC and the Washingtonia.

  24. The Walkers says

    Why Why Why does Channel 7 keep doing away with their seasoned newscasters. I guess it’s a sign of the time. But why Leon? He was well liked, caring, funny, and Leon had and has a loyal group of viewers and me among them. I’m going to keep googling him and see what the next chapter of his career. Wherever he goes or whatever he does I will be watching him if it is applicable. But as far as Channel 7 news – I’m through with you and very upset with you. Please bring him back – One day you will have to pay for all of your wrong terminations. As the saying goes be nice to EVERYONE because the person who is below you today may be your boss tomorrow.

  25. The night Leon was saying his goodbyes to the tv audience, I was shocked and dumbfounded, as well as screaming WHY?!?!? at the screen. Leon and Alison was the best news duo in the DC area!!! I don’t understand why the so called powers-that-be make these totally UNNECESSARY changes. Did you guys query your viewing audience…NO YOU MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT!!! Leon delivered the news in a way that reached ALL age groups. And please tell me that they did not replace him with the boring Jonathan Elias… give me a break! I thought out of loyalty to Alison that I could keep watching my favorite [email protected]…but I realized that I couldn’t do it. Much love to you though Alison! Sometimes, I don’t watch the news at all because quite honestly the others are dull & boring. ABC7 WAS vibrant. The new company that owns them now has made a BIG mistake letting go a beloved news icon such as Leon Harris (if that was the case…it probably was). I’d like to think that God has bigger & better plans for him and his family. But my heart is still sad about this & I miss Leon.

  26. Roberta Ricci says

    When I didn’t see Leon Harris on the Channel 7 news for several nights, I googled him looking to find out why he wasn’t on the air. I remember when he was very ill a while back and was off the air, and I worried that he had taken ill again. Letting him go was THE BIGGEST MISTAKE channel 7 has made. He was professional, passionate, and you could tell he LOVED his job and those he interacted with. He had the pulse and respect of the community. His Harris’s Heroes was an uplifting addition to the newscast – and we need more kind s of news stories like it. He is sorely missed. I, too, will look for another news station, one that connects with its viewers. Gordon…Harris…..and now Bunyan……watch out Doug Hill, you very well could be next. I hope not. Such a shame that channel 7 has lost touch with its viewers and community.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with your comments!! I was appalled when I learned that Leon Harris – the best news anchor in our viewing area – was let go without any explanation or comments from management!!

      I cannot fathom why this eloquent and professional journalist was let go with Elias as a replacement!! The Harris-Starling team was magic and it is not the same since his involuntary departure.

      News in this area has changed so much with all of the millennials and their ridiculous “valley girl/boy” whiny commentary and gesticulations. News is serious business and while it is alright to have some entertaining aspects, it IS NOT and SHOULD NOT be just another vacuous reality show!!!

      Lately, I find myself checking out the news on my favorite, trusted sites on the web. I still watch locally at times but I was a faithful viewer of WJLA in the afternoon and especially at 11:00 p.m.

      I wish Leon and his family well and I hope he knows how much he is loved and appreciated by the viewers in this area.

  27. Leon Harris was a staple on WJLA (Channel 7) and it’s quite upsetting to know that he was dismissed.. Obviously it is more to the story than meets the eye . It doesn’t make sense to get rid of one of your most talented news anchors. What I love about Leon Harris is that he maintained such class while speaking about his time there and never said anything negative about anyone at the station. WJLA – you will continue to lose loyal viewers who no longer trust you. Mr. Harris, your great work speaks for itself and I believe that your being let go will end up being a blessing in disguise.. Bigger and better things are sure to come your way!

  28. Channel 7 WAS my “go to” source but not without my Leon! I too was shocked and dismayed to learn he was off the air. I agree the vibe is just not the same he was a great talent and from all the comments here, made WJLA a unique experience with his talent and personality. Now it’s drab and hardly worth turning on. Thanks to the powers that be. IM TURNING OFF

  29. WJLA has gone down hill since Leon Harris left. I will be looking for another news channel to watch.

  30. I finally got around to googling why Leon Harris left. Was wondering what happened and truly miss him on the news He had the intellect and personality to deliver news. He is sorely missed!!! You could tell him and Alison Starling were a great team and they really resonated with the viewers. A HUGE loss to Channel 7. I agree with his comment about Vance, so uninspiring. He will do well wherever he goes next. Hope he stays local!!

  31. Margaret L says

    Channel 7 made the biggest mistake of their life by letting Leon Harris go. I have now stopped looking at WJLA. Where did these new people come from any way?? So sad

  32. I miss Leon Harris too! Since he’s been gone, I’ve turned to channel 4.
    I trusted Leon Harris and he always seemed sincere. I hope another
    Station will be smart enough to pick him up.

  33. Leon is knocking it out of the park at NBC; great to see him again.

  34. Evangelyn Pappas says

    I turned on the TV this afternoon and heard a familiar voice – it was Leon Harris. I really miss him on Channel 7 so I will start watching News 4. Too bad WJLA you got rid of a great newscaster!

  35. D. Jasper says

    Thank goodness Leon Harris is now on channel 4 and he continues to be an outstanding news commentator. Mr. Harris was wonderful about coming out to support community programs and everyone loved having his warm, embracing presence within our gatherings. Your loss was certainly a great gain for channel 4. My family is now happily watching channel 4 and channel 7 is no longer our daily news station.

  36. Jean Baraclough says

    Yippee! After much searching in the hope that Leon Harris might be picked up by another nearby channel, I found him on NBC channel 4! I was so upset when he left WJLA, couldn’t believe they actually let their best and most popular news anchor go. I also like Alison Starling, but sorry Alison, I have to go where Leon is. He is the classiest, most trustworthy, and charismatic newscaster I have seen in years. Congratulations Channel 4 for hiring him. I will be watching your newscasts from here on out. Happy for you Leon.

  37. I so agree with all of the above comments. I am so happy to see Leon Harris on NBC Channel 4 News! After I watched all my favorite newscasters let go on ABC Channel 7 by Sinclair Broadcasting, I completely quit watching their news broadcasts. The direction that Sinclair Broadcasting is heading is one that I will not follow. I am sad to hear about Vance’s medical problems and hope that he will be ok. NBC is so lucky to have hired Leon Harris! Yeah!

  38. Wow! I just found Leon Harris on channel 4 @ 11:00 pm🤗
    Bye 👋 by channel 7

  39. Charles Tapp says

    WJLA has made a HUGE mistake with their unceremonious release of Leon Harris. Mr Harris was one of the reasons why so many of us watched channel 7 news. I’m tired of how our culture has little regard for those whose wealth of experience makes such a tremendous contribution and continues to replace them with “youth.” Mr. Harris is extremely talented and I am happy to hear that NBC 4 has recognized it with their recent hire of him. Cream always rises to the top!

  40. Nan Shrigley says

    I have been a loyal ABC7 news and weather watcher for years. When Leon left, I couldn’t understand why. Alison Starling is the only one who is good. All of the rest can’t read the news…don’t seem to be connected to anything and the station has really gone downhill in terms of professionalism. When Doug Hill retires in September, it will be devastating. I think Steve Rudin is very good and I trust his reporting. I may flip to 7 in time for the weather each evening, or wait for Steve to go to a better station. But I think the channel has made some mistakes and poor choices and is losing its loyal base. Always had outstanding people….now they are left with Steve and Alison…. good luck to the 2 of them, because they deserve far better than that. Hooray for channel 4 seizing an opportunity to gain a great person like Leon. He not only delivers news, but is concerned about the community and is such a genuine person.

  41. Sad for channel 7, he is the best, I know anyone else would be honored to have him.

  42. Living Life says

    I am so happy that Leon Harris is on Channel 4 with the awesome First Lady Pat Muse! I wasn’t an avid Channel 7 news watcher but would channel surf from time to time to get a glimpse of Leon. On a sad note I will say that I believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways and l Jim Vance’s death opened a spot for Leon on Channel 4. May Jim rest in peace….Congratulations! to Leon and giving God thanks for giving Leon another chance. Suddenly not having a job to get up and go to is an awful feeling.

  43. Bonnie name says

    I have been a channel 7 wjla watcher my whole life as thats who my parents watched back in the day of 4 channels. Loved all of them. Now its horrible. They keep letting the good ones go or they are forced to retire. Disgusting

  44. I have to agree with most of the comments. WJLA is awful. Since WJLA has ‘cleaned house’ they also lowered their standards. Are they trying to compete with Fox? They don’t report the news they shout the news. Their voices (especially Nancy Chen’s) sounds like she just got out of voice school. The way she enunciates is unnatural and grating to my ears. By the end of the news, I am exhausted. From now on I will tune in to Channel 4 and hopefully catch my favorite anchor, Leon Harris.

  45. Miss Leon. Can’t stand Nancy Chen. The bimbo act gets old and she always sounds like she has a plugged up nose. Gobs of makeup, flirts with the camera instead of reporting the news. They need to replace her with someone more professional and seasoned, someone more like Alison.

  46. Leon was their biggest asset. We now watch channel 4 like all the others!!

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