A former Blue Ridge Cable television reporter who went on to become an award-winning investigative reporter really has earned his chops.
Jeff Chirico, who now works for WGCL, a CBS television station in Atlanta, Georgia, and is part of the station's Tough Questions Team, has earned even more fame as a video of him being punched in the face by an irate man has gone viral. Contacted Tuesday morning, Chirico said the station would not be commenting on the incident "at this time."
The incident happened on Feb. 2 as Chirico was questioning Donald Wilder, whose son, Richard Wilder, is suspected of bilking his tax preparation clients out of their refunds. Chirico had learned that Richard Wilder, who also runs a used car business, is not licensed to do either job. He has since been arrested and charged.
Video camera running, Chirico approaches the elder Wilder on the street, and begins asking him about his son's shady business dealings. Apparently, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
"It only costs 25 bucks to punch this man in the mouth," Wilder says as he looks directly into the video camera, drawing back his right hand in a fist as he grabs Chirico's collar with his left hand. Chirico remains calm, defusing the situation.
But the reprieve is only temporary. As Wilder enters a building, Chirico, undaunted, follows as he continues to ask questions. The older man suddenly turns and punches Chirico on the chin, sending him sprawling. Chirico quickly recovers, getting to his feet.
It was not clear as of early Tuesday whether Donald Wilder has been charged.
The video has gone viral, with the story being published by news outlets throughout the country, including the New York Daily News, Huffington Post, and others.
Chirico, a five-time Emmy winner, worked for BRC 13 in 1997-98, then moved on to WLV TV, Bethlehem. From there he moved on the WBRE TV, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Chirico joined WGCL in 2010.
The video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBIDFlnkba4.