Mark Giangreco is in limbo at ABC-7 after an on-air line about casting anchor Cheryl Burton as a ‘ditzy, combative’ reality TV character

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Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read
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ABC-7 sportscaster Mark Giangreco, a Chicago TV fixture for nearly 40 years, has been off the air since joking on a January newscast that anchor Cheryl Burton could play a “ditzy, combative interior decorator” on a reality TV series.

Whether Giangreco, 68, will return is not certain despite 18 months remaining on the contract renewal he signed in 2019 that reportedly kept him as the nation’s highest-paid local sportscaster.

Giangreco also has been absent from his regular appearances on WMVP-AM 1000 1/4 u2032s weekday afternoon “Waddle & Silvy” program.

An ABC-7 spokeswoman declined to comment on behalf of station management. Giangreco also had no comment. Giangreco’s suspension and the reason for it were first reported by the Daily Herald’s Robert Feder.

Burton, who has been with the station since 1992, is said to have complained to management after Giangreco mentioned her when closing his sports segment on the Jan. 28 10 p.m. newscast with video of Canadian hockey player Spencer Jenkin painting his home while on roller skates.

“Gotta get him a show on DIY Network,” Giangreco said. “We’ll call it ‘House Fix with Sticks,’ and Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator. I got it all worked out.”

Giangreco signed with the ABC-owned station in December 1994, having previously spent 12 years at NBC-5.

A native of upstate New York, he came to Chicago in 1982 after stints in Louisville, Ky., and Dayton, Ohio, making a name for himself with segments that, as one critic put it, delivered “sports highlights and basic news with panache.”

His popularity with sports fans and non-fans has been rooted in puckish humor. This isn’t the first time being flippant has gotten him into trouble, however.

A remark in 1999 about how Chicago Bears great Walter Payton appeared “shriveled up” turned ugly when Payton subsequently revealed he had a fatal liver condition. Making the diagnosis public, Payton said Giangreco’s remark “hurt, it really did,” though the two soon reconciled.

A 2004 joke about unrest in Detroit after the Pistons won the NBA title — he called it “a typical night in Detroit” — resulted in a weeklong suspension.

Giangreco apologized in 2014 after upsetting some viewers with a suicide allusion in a graphic of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler that said, “Cut him or cut your wrists.”

ABC-7 suspended Giangreco in 2017 for an off-air incident. He called President Donald Trump a “cartoon lunatic” and America “a country full of simpletons” on Twitter, which the station said constituted a violation of its “nonpartisan editorial standards.”

None of that, however, prevented the Walt Disney Co.-owned station from signing Giangreco to a new contract in October 2019. While said to represent a pay cut from the estimated $1 million per year he had been making, the renewal reportedly was worth in the high six figures annually.

Other longtime ABC-7 news personnel to have exited the station in recent weeks includes food reporter Steve Dolinsky after 17 years and features reporter and veteran host Janet Davies after more than 36 years.

For many of those years, Davies co-hosted ABC-7 1/4 u2032s New Year’s Eve coverage with Giangreco. Last year’s edition included plexiglass to separate the two as a COVID-19 precaution and puppets to continue their annual tradition of a midnight kiss.