UPDATED: 10:12 a.m. EDT, Oct. 23 —
New reports were shedding light on what really led TMZ to fire Van Lathan, one of the celebrity- and gossip-focused TV show’s most popular personalities. Lathan put his hands around the neck of co-worker Michael Babcock after a dispute on live TV, the New York Post’s Page Six reported Tuesday evening.
But a report from the Daily Beast provided more details. According to the news website, Lathan and Babcock disagreed on the topic of Ellen Degeneres sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a football game earlier this month. While the nature of the reported dispute between Lathan and Babcock was not immediately clear, the Daily Beast highlighted a tweet posted earlier this month that claimed to show four still shots from the live broadcast of the show in question. In particular, one of the photos shows Lathan with his hands around Babcock’s neck.
Babcock’s views on the show have tended to be more conservative than the liberal-leaning Lathan, though it was not clear if that was a factor in the apparent confrontation. Lathan is Black and Babcock is white. Neither of them has directly addressed the incident but Lathan seemed to indirectly tweet about it in the hours before the news broke that he was fired.
Van Lathan was one of the few Black voices on TMZ‘s TV show for years. That all changed when he was reportedly fired recently. According to Page Six, the veteran TMZ personality was terminated because of an argument with one of his co-workers whose views have been accused of being conservative. Now Van is speaking out.
The 39-year-old got into a “nasty” confrontation about politics with Michael Babcock. “We’re told that the pair appeared on the site’s online show ‘TMZ Live’ together about a week and a half ago and had some kind of disagreement. The on-air face-off has been edited out, we’re told, but sources say they were sparring over politics, which has increasingly come between them,” the outlet reported.
Allegedly, Lathan “confronted” Babcock in the newsroom after the segment and said there would be trouble if he “ever embarrassed [Lathan] like that again.” Citing inside sources, Page Six also reported that “Lathan met with the site’s attorneys and he was suspended. He was dismissed a few days later, we’re told.”
An insider reportedly defended Lathan by saying “in the site’s high-pressure newsroom, staffers are often pitted against each other for the sake of making good TV.” The insider added, “Van’s not mean-spirited. Anything that happened is a product of that environment.” Sources were reportedly “stunned” that he was fired.
Page Six reported that it reached out Lathan for comment and he did not respond. The site reported that Michael Babcock hung up on when called.
That said, Lathan is fine. He wrote on Twitter, “I’m okay. Promise you guys. Seriously.”
The creator of TMZ, Harvey Levin, has long been accused of being a Trump supporter. Back in July, The Daily Beast reported the two are close friends, “More than a dozen former and current TMZ employees described the site’s pro-Trump transformation during the election under Levin, which they say destroyed newsroom morale and led to the departure of several key staffers.”
One staffer allegedly said about Levin, “He was excited at the prospect of Trump becoming president. He wanted Trump to win because he wanted to know someone in the White House.”
Fortunately, Lathan’s talent goes well beyond TMZ. We are sure big things are in his future.