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As Larry Mendte Returned from Libya Empty-Handed, Some Question Wisdom of Trip

WPIX reporter Larry Mendte returned from Libya last week after a hectic trip to the country’s capital with U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, and now some are questioning the wisdom of the mission as Weldon’s planned meeting with Muammar Qaddafi never materialized.

“This is a station that fires people left and right, and they’ll pay for a Libya trip,” a WPIX insider complained to the New York Post recently.

This morning the Post published a takedown of WPIX, which is currently trailing far behind its rival WNYW in the ratings, and wondered if Mendte’s trip to Libya was less about bolstering the station’s hard news identity and more about repairing the image of the troubled reporter, who is in the midst of a messy legal battle with his former KYW co-anchor Alycia Lane:

Skeptics inside the station told The Post they believed Mendte wanted to go on the assignment so he could rebuild his reputation weeks before he faces charges for damaging Lane’s reputation.

Weldon and Mendte this week returned from Libya essentially empty-handed.

After a splash of publicity early last week, Qaddafi ultimately refused to meet with Weldon. And the congressman, who has a long-term relationship with the Qaddafi family, was left trying to fabricate moral victories from his trip. As WPIX reported last week:

While the initial goal of the trip proved elusive, Weldon’s visit was a timely one as he says he was able to work on pressing humanitarian missions — securing the release of four journalists who were seized Tuesday by Qaddafi loyalists, and escorting rape victim Eman al-Obeidi out of Tripoi to her family in Benghazi.

According to Weldon, he organized a face-to-face meeting between Eman and Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Saadi Quaddafi, to garner support for her release.  He also claims to have reached out to Angelina Jolie’s publicist through U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA) to coordinate an escort to Benghazi through Tuis and Cairo.

Even after meetings with high Libyan officials including Quaddafi’s son and the prime minister, al-Obeity and the four journalists are still detained, however.

In the meantime, Mendte was left reporting, not on a historic summit with the famously elusive Libyan leader but on “The Beauty of Libya,” a segment that certainly won’t provide the type of ratings momentum that WPIX so badly needs.

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