On Monday, Lee Cruse and Hayley Harmon will take over ABC36’s “Good Morning Kentucky” weekdays from 5 to 7 a.m.
They will also host the station’s popular Good Day Kentucky along with Annie Brown and meteorologist Dillon Gaudet.
“This is a game-changer for the Lexington market,” said station manger Chris Aldridge. “Lee and Hayley know what it takes to consistently win in the ratings and stay there. We think our current audience and the addition of their previous viewers will enjoy seeing them back together again on the delivering the morning news as only they can.”
For Harmon, an Emmy Award winning journalist, the move marks a return to her broadcast roots, the station said in a news release.
“It means a great deal to me personally to once again be doing something I love with my adopted family here in Lexington,” Harmon said in a news release. “This is a very special time in our community and it’s an honor for us to be part of it.”
For Cruse, a veteran of nearly three decades in the business, it represents an opportunity to reunite with the viewers whom he credits with much of his success.
“Hayley and I are excited to get back to where it all began, bringing the news, and hopefully a little humor to start the day, to our amazing family and friends here in the Bluegrass,” he said in a news release.
Their new broadcast duties are in addition to starring in and overseeing the continued growth of “The Lee and Hayley Show,” the station said. They launched their now syndicated show in Lexington in February 2020 and have since grown to include audiences in 13 cities in seven markets.
For news director Miranda Combs, the decision to change things up and bring more parity to the market made sense.
“Inserting Lee and Hayley in the morning news slot gives us a pair of all-stars at the top of what is now the station’s most impressive and talented lineup ever,” she said in a news release. “I’m proud of the direction ABC36 is going, and this is still, in many ways, just the beginning.”
Other recent moves by WTVQ include the hiring of chief meteorologist T.G. Shuck, sports director Jeff Piecoro, partnering the husband and wife team of Doug & Lyssa High on Midday Kentucky featuring High Noon, and pairing veteran journalist Erica Bivens on the nightly news desk with new co-anchor Paxton Boyd.
Cruse was fired from WLEX18 in 2019 following comments he made two weeks prior that the station called inappropriate. On May 9 during his “Live with Lee and Hayley” show, he was reading a script about a BBC radio broadcaster who was fired for using a chimpanzee to represent Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s newborn baby.
Cruse laughed and said, “this is my new favorite disc jockey.” The next day on the show, he apologized and called his comment an “egregious error.” Following a flood of complaints and the Lexington-Fayette County NAACP branch calling for the station to take action, Cruse was suspended for a week after his remarks.
WLEX then made the decision to fire Cruse.
Cruse, who worked at the Lexington TV station for more than 20 years, said in an episode of Kentucky Sports Radio’s “The Funkhouser Situation” podcast that his firing seemed like “overkill.”
More than 22,000 people signed a Change.org petition for WLEX 18 to rehire Cruse. Many others commented on social media that they would boycott the station. Cruse’s co-host, Harmon, left WLEX saying it had been “really hard” for her since Cruse’s termination. Harmon said at the time of Cruse’s firing that she was “devastated” by the decision and she stood by Cruse.