Who is Kristen Hentschel? GMA's 'hit piece' producer was paid to 'trip up' pols at behest of Florida firm
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA: 'Good Morning America' producer Kristen Hentschel allegedly used her title in an attempt to gain access to politicians who were opposed to the interests of a political consulting firm she was working at. Hentschel, who earlier went by the name Kristyn Caddell, was known in the past for her affair with 'To Catch a Predator' host Chris Hansen.
A recent NPR and Floodlight report said that Hentschel had tried to "trip up Florida politicians whose stances on environmental regulations cut against the interests" of clients of Matrix LLC on at least three occasions. Matrix was recently accused of running surveillance operations against journalists and environmental activists. It is unclear if Hentschel is still employed by ABC. "If she was working on these stories, she was not authorized to cover them for ABC News," a spokesperson for ABC told NPR.
Who is Kristen Hentschel?
According to Hentschel's LinkedIn profile, she received the Edward R Murrow Award for breaking news coverage. Her 'About' section reads, "Two- time Emmy nominated television journalist with more than ten years of experience at stations across the US"; "Skills also include shooting, editing and field producing"; "Stories have aired on national news outlets like Fox News, NBC News, ABC News and CNN". The experience section on her page reads, "Field reporter for OJ Simpson robbery trial"; "Field reporter for numerous tropical storms and hurricanes"; and "Field reporter for President Barack Obama's inauguration, 2009."
Hentschel went to Palm Beach Atlantic University, where she studied Radio, Television, and Digital Communication, as well as Communication and Media Studies. She is a volunteer with animal shelters in Florida and Washington, District of Columbia, and also assists with dog adoption charity events.
What are the allegations against Kristen Hentschel?
In one instance, Hentschel allegedly confronted a Florida State rep and said a construction project he was involved in was responsible for the deaths of endangered tortoises, which was false. She also allegedly smeared a South Florida mayor by claiming a previously settled lawsuit involving his daughter and friend would come under the renewed spotlight.
Hentschel has been accused of doorstepping a Florida Republican congressman in the past, telling his wife that she was from ABC News and wanted to question him about crude jokes he had made on Facebook several years ago. On another occasion, she allegedly hired an Atlanta-area personal trainer who was the former girlfriend of the CEO of a company that was a rival to her clients. Hentschel, who is from Florida, befriended her. It later came to light that the woman and her ex-boyfriend had been the victims of spying.
According to the NPR report, Hentschel was paid around $7,000 for work done for Florida Crystals, a sugar company, and Florida Power & Light during one election cycle. Florida Crystals and FPL "could have benefited" from Hentschel's work in undermining Toby Overdorf, a candidate for Florida's House of Representatives.
Overdorf was reportedly trying to introduce more solar paneling to his constituency. He was also battling water pollution, which was something the sugar industry perpetrated in the past. Hentschel allegedly asked Overdorf on camera about 20 dead endangered gopher tortoises being found at a construction site where he was a consultant. An investigation later found that there were no tortoises.
Overdorf told NPR, "It was an attack ad against my livelihood, my family. And it was something that potentially could last far beyond my time running for office." He, however, ultimately won his election.
Hentschel, a registered Republican, has been paid $15,000 from Matrix in 2016. NPR says that she was hired by the firm's former CEO Jeff Pitts. She was later also accused of identifying herself as representing ABC News as she contacted then Mayor of South Miami Phil Stoddard, telling him about a press conference that would draw attention to a previously settled lawsuit involving the mayor and the family of a teenage boy.
The boy was reportedly hospitalized after he attended a party thrown by his teenage daughter. Hentschel received $2,000 for her efforts. According to The Orlando Sentinel, Matrix spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to remove Stoddard from office.
Hentschel hired Atlanta-based personal trainer Kim Tanaka in 2021, although she did not live in Georgia. Tanaka formerly dated Tom Fanning, the CEO of Southern Company, a competitor to FPL. AL.com reported that investigators working for Matrix spied on Tanaka and Fanning.
In 2020, Hentschel tried to ask Rep Brian Mast about the rape jokes he previously made on Facebook by representing herself as an ABC News correspondent. It was later confirmed that Hentschel was not there on official business.