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Fox4's Tinsley wasn't pet smart, still won't talk about it

Longtime Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley posing with a Teacup Maltese pedigree puppy as emcee of a recent benefit auction for Children's Medical Center. It's still posted on her Facebook fan page.

Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley's Facebook fan page is lighting up like a Christmas tree this month -- with non-fans who are excoriating her for emceeing a Dec. 7th charity auction for Children's Medical Center at which three puppy mill pups were illegally auctioned off to the highest bidders.

Jeanne Prejean of the Dallas-based MySweetCharity blog walked out on the event and then posted a story headlined "Fundraiser Breaks The Law With County Officials And Legal Eagles In Attendance." Besides Tinsley, attendees included Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, County Commisioner Elba Garcia and singer Cindi Lauper, who performed.

Prejean's story said that dog auctioning has been illegal in Dallas since 2008. The auctioning of pets at charitable events has "happened before and will probably happen again unless animal advocates, nonprofit benefactors and law enforcement do more than issue a letter," Prejean wrote. "One group that recently auctioned off a puppy quipped, 'Let 'em send a letter or even fine us. We made more money off the sale of the dog than the fine.' "

The story was widely linked and circulated, with Tinsley taking a hammering for both her participation in the event and her absolute public silence ever since. She has not returned an email, sent Thursday, asking for comment or clarification on the charity event, at which she willingly posed with one of the pups up for auction. Nor is there any reaction from Tinsley on her FaceBook page. And she hasn't addressed the matter on the air.

Is this the right approach by a household name TV anchor who's been in the D-FW market for more than 30 years (as a current Fox4 promotion trumpets)? No, it's not. But it's unfortunately typical of many high-profile TV people who report on the mishaps of others but dodge or ignore questions about their own questionable activities.

Some of Tinsley's detractors have been crude and vicious. One of the numerous postings on her Facebook page, by "pet rescuer" Heather Goldsmith of Santa Monica Pet Rescue, says that "you and everyone involved in this sick act should be disgusted with yourselves!!! Looking at your face makes me want to vomit all over it!!"

Many others, in far more reasonable language, have called on Tinsley to either issue an apology or report on puppy mill atrocities. And a handful have defended Tinsley's participation as a well-meaning effort to raise money for a worthy organization.

Kristina Bowman, who says she was at the event, writes in part, "I am horrified by the ignorant & hateful comments, on Clarice's page, from many so-called animal rescuers . . . YES, it was a disgusting and horribly wrong decision to auction off 3 puppy-mill pups. HOWEVER, Clarice had nothing to do with that . . . A pup was handed to her for a photo op. She would have had no way to have known anything about where that pup came from. I also understand that she made some uninformed comments about the pup, but that is where true animal rescuers could have taken the opportunity to be civil and respectfully educated her about the horrors of puppy-mills."

Again, it would be nice to hear from Tinsley on this. Instead, Prejean lately has decided to speak on her behalf in a followup Dec. 19th MySweetCharity post in which she describes the anchor as "a Nolan Ryan-caliber animal lover."

"Unfortunately, she has been pilloried like the worst of Salem on her Facebook fan page," Prejean adds. "MySweetCharity's elves have been double-dosing Maalox knowing that Clarice, who adores her cat Serenity, has been treated in such a way. Like so many people, Clarice didn't know the auctioning of animals for charitable purposes was illegal. If you're going to think badly of Clarice for not knowing, then damn the majority of people in Dallas who were also ignorant of this ordinance."

Tinsley has never been shy about publicizing her efforts on behalf of "the community." And footage of her in action often finds its way onto Fox4 newscasts. But mum's the word in this case, because there's a whiff of controversy in play.

Tinsley's approach is in stark contrast to another major D-FW television personality who's been in this market for almost as long as she has. WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen is nothing if not a standup guy. And he made that abundantly clear again Sunday night, on his annual "Thank God For Kids" Christmas segment, with an admission that he had been sexually assaulted as a 10-year-old boy in Iowa.

Hansen said he had told no one until now, but wanted to unburden himself in light of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal involving former coaches in the Penn State University football program. One can sometimes question the venues he chooses. And Hansen is long-accustomed to being labeled a pompous ass and worse by detractors who can't take him anymore.

But Hansen would never take Tinsley's approach. He'd address his critics front and center, and apologize if necessary. It simply isn't in him to bob, weave or stonewall. He long has understood that prominent media personalities have a responsibility to come clean and explain themselves when the going gets a little tough. Otherwise what right do they have to continually come into living rooms with stories that pry into other's lives?

Tinsley apparently wants viewers to love her unconditionally, with no further questions asked. So she simply ignores unpleasant matters rather than at least briefly addressing them and then moving on. She's hardly alone in her field. Which makes Hansen all that more exceptional. Love or loathe him, he'll keep coming at you while Tinsley in this particular case ignores all inquiries and keeps her desk job.