News station faces backlash for 'gross, anti-homeless' segment: 'It crosses the line'

Social media users are accusing Tampa-based WFLA of broadcasting an "anti-homeless" segment meant to shame a panhandler. (Photo: WFLA)

A Tampa, Fla. news channel is being accused of producing an "anti-homeless" segment after a panhandler allegedly turned down a $15-an-hour job doing yardwork from a fed-up "taxpayer." Despite panhandling not being illegal in the area, the homeless man was captured on camera against his wishes and, according to some social media users, publicly shamed.

On July 15, WFLA reported that Ryan Bray, whom they refer to as a business owner in Bradenton, allegedly offered a homeless man $15 to perform yard work. According to Bray's account, the man turned the job down, became irritated and kicked Bray's vehicle's tire.

“They want money, they don’t want jobs, they don’t want to work,” he told the station. “They don’t want food. You can give them food. They don’t take it.”

Bray returned to the intersection where the homeless man, identified as Alabama by another station, WFTS, was panhandling. Bray held up a sign that read, "I offered him $15 an hour to do yard work for me and he refused. If we as a community stop paying them, they will leave our neighborhood." He stood by Alabama for three hours.

“This is our town,” Bray said. “We pay taxes here.”

During the video, WFLA's cameras filmed Alabama as he vehemently demanded that they stop, adding that panhandling "is not against the law." In 2018, a revised law in Manatee County, which includes Bradenton, states panhandlers are protected by the right to free speech and can ask passersby for money.

On Sunday, Adam Johnson shared footage of the “8 on Your Side” segment on Twitter, calling it "gross, anti-homeless," and writing that it "crosses the line from fear-mongering to incitement, glorifying right-wing vigilante harassment of the indigent."

Many on social media echoed his concerns.

Johnson went on to credit another Twitter user in pointing out that the segment used “every loaded, right-wing signifier in the book.”

WFTS also reports a conflicting second side of the story. According to Alabama, Bray never offered him a job.

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