Mike Barz wants the world to know he never groped, fondled or even hugged the co-worker whose complaint against him led to his firing as morning news anchor at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.
In his first public comment since his dismissal last summer, Barz, 39, called the episode "a fabricated story" and said he is taking legal action to win reinstatement and back pay. An arbitration hearing is expected to be scheduled this week.
"I expect that as this process plays out, people will realize the truth," he said. "It's all been very unfair and unfortunate because it has dragged my name through the mud."
A Fox Chicago spokeswoman confirmed that the station was aware of his grievance, but declined to comment on personnel matters.
For a time, Barz seemed to be on a fast track to network stardom. A seven-year stint as morning sports anchor on Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 led to a high-profile gig as features correspondent and fill-in weatherman at ABC's "Good Morning America," based in New York. But shifting fortunes and a change in top producers at the show brought him back to local television via Fox Chicago in 2007.
After more than two years as anchor of "Good Day Chicago," Barz was fired July 15 -- five days after he and about two dozen other Fox staffers attended a party at the Reagle Beagle, for Margaret Shortridge, a reporter whose contract was not renewed.