Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has hired a veteran broadcast journalist to be his top media relations aide as he prepares to launch his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor next week.
Gansler announced Wednesday that Bob Wheelock, a longtime ABC producer who most recently worked for the Qatari-owned cable network Al Jazeera America, will join his campaign as communications director.
Wheelock, 57, most recently served as the public face of Al Jazeera's effort to launch a highly credible, professional news organization in the United States.
Hired by Al Jazeera in 2012, as recently this summer he held the title of senior executive producer for news and special projects at the newly launched network, which bought out former Vice President Al Gore's Current TV for a reported $500 million.
Wheelock said he had known Gansler for about 16 years and that the candidate once coached one of his children in soccer. He said that over the years he had spoken with Gansler about going to work for him and that now seemed to be the right time.
"The bottom line is I actually respect him and I respect his passion for trying to fix things in the state," Wheelock said.
Through much of this year, Wheelock was the chief spokesman for Al Jazeera's effort to establish itself in the U.S. market amid suspicions it might have a political agenda. In an interview last month, he said the network would bring "good old-fashioned journalism" to its viewers.
"I believe that when people watch us or see us, they like us. The negative comments tend to come I have found from people who have never seen the channel. Now that it will be more available, I think we can let our content speak itself," he told interviewer Kevin Williams on PolitiSite.
Wheelock said working at Al Jazeera had been a good experience and that nobody there had tried to interfere with his journalistic independence.
A Gansler campaign press release said Wheelock's career at ABC included stints as senior producer of "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley." As NBC, he was senior producer for "The Today Show." Gansler praised him as One of the most-respected and well-liked individuals in the journalism business."
In the release, Maryland native Wheelock said the job with Gansler would be a great opportunity "to return to the state where I grew up."
Gansler plans to launch a campaign kickoff tour next Tuesday in Rockville. His announced opponents are Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur.