Blogger, podcast host and comedian Francis Ellis has been fired from the sports and pop culture website Barstool Sports after writing an insensitive post about Mackenzie Lueck, the University of Utah college student who went missing on June 17. Ellis, 30, wrote the post on June 28, then deleted it shortly after police announced that Lueck had been brutally murdered.
Ellis, who also co-hosts Barstool’s morning drive-time SiriusXM show alongside former NFL player Willie Colon, titled the post “College Student MacKenzie Lueck, Fan of Call Her Daddy and Proud Sugar Baby, Still Missing; Sorority Sisters Hopeful Due to Her Recent Instagram Activity.”
The post started off by detailing Lueck’s disappearance, but then revealed he’d searched her Instagram account for unflattering material. “As it turns out, the young lady frequents sugar daddy dating websites including SeekingArrangement.com.” Seeking Arrangement is a website that connects young women with wealthy, older men. Ellis also mocked Lueck for her number of Instagram followers. “This must be her (secondary account) because 222 followers is pretty weak for anyone in a sorority,” he wrote.
Barstool Sports founder David Portney described Ellis’ post as an “absolutely insane move to talk about this subject…try to make any sort of light about it.” Portnoy later said his thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Ellis said it was a “horrible mistake” and that he “simply should not have written about the story.”
Here’s what you need to know about Francis Ellis.
1. Ellis Deleted the Post and Issued an Apology
On the evening of June 28, Ellis issued a public apology on social media along with an explanation for his behavior, emphasizing that he thought Lueck was safe. According to Ellis, he’d read an article published by People three days earlier stating that “no foul play was suspected.” He also saw a story in the New York Post which said there had been recent activity on Lueck’s Instagram account, leading him to believe she was fine.
While searching her Instagram account, Ellis noticed Lueck was a fan of “Call Her Daddy,” a Barstool Sports’ podcast that features two young women with raunchy broadcasts and show titles such as “Condom Poker,” “Why they Won’t Fuck You,” and “Welcome to Slut Camp.” “These were the factors that compelled me to write about the story,” he said in his apology.
“I will be reflecting on my choice for quite some time. But for now, I offer my deepest condolences to the Lueck family and all those who knew her, both for my terrible lack of consideration and for their loss.”
2. Ellis Was Given Free Rein to Post without Edits
Barstool Sports’ editor-in-chief Keith Markovich tweeted that Ellis had been given free rein to post blogs without any editorial review. Markovich told The Daily Beast that he currently edits and approves the work of Barstool Sports 16 bloggers. The Daily Beast noted that the Barstool Sports website currently lists 65 bloggers.
On June 28, Markovich appeared on Barstool’s SiriusXM broadcast and discussed the Ellis’ termination. Revealing that Ellis was “notoriously unhappy” with his edits, Markovich said the two had previously butted heads. Eventually, Ellis was given permission to post without any oversight.
Markovich posted on Twitter that he had been told Ellis no longer required editorial approval, “after he was allowed to post whatever he wanted about Ellie.” Markovich is referring to comments made by Ellis about Barstool Sports blogger Ellie Schnitt.
“Ever since that happened, he got the go-ahead to go and be himself and just post. He’d come to me every now and then and ask if it was a risky topic. He didn’t ask anyone on this. He didn’t ask anyone when he deleted it, either,” Markovitch reportedly shared during the broadcast.
3. Barstool Sports Said They Had to Fire Ellis
Portnoy released an “emergency press conference” video on June 28 discussing the site’s decision to terminate Ellis. “This is very real. I just had to fire Francis. Francis’ time at Barstool Sports is over,” he said.
Portnoy told viewers that Ellis had blogged “about that missing Utah girl.” He explained that Ellis had mistakenly thought Lueck was safe, only to find out several hours after posting that she had been murdered. “He put it up and deleted it before I even knew it existed,” Portnoy revealed.
Portnoy said in his video that he’d initially considered suspending Ellis. A tweet from editor Markovich earlier in the day joked, “welcome back to the ‘Wait For Approval’ dome.”
Stating there are certain things he can’t stand by or justify, Portnoy reconsidered, saying the “damage had been done,” and the popular host had to be fired. “You just can’t do it.” Portnoy said Ellis is a “talented guy,” but described the incident as a “ridiculous lack in judgment.”
“It sucks, but in the scheme of life, this is nothing compared to the real story.”
4. Ellis Considered Joining the Foreign Service or CIA
Prior to starting his comedy career, Ellis had originally considered joining the Foreign Service or the CIA, with a focus on the Middle East. “I actually did apply to the CIA but I don’t think they liked my application. I answered yes to the question ‘Did you ever smoke pot?’ So, that fell through and I moved to New York City in 2011 to try comedy,” he shared during an interview with The Republican.
Ellis’ website says that he “is known for his dry, dark sense of humor, and if you have a good death story he’d love to hear it.” Ellis told The Republican his comedy focuses mostly on stories from his life and themes he’s noticed in life.
The controversial comic told the paper his interest in comedy started in childhood. “I was always taking risks is a kid… Always trying to say something to get a reaction from people.”
Ellis lives in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Most of his standup is performed around New York City but he has also booked shows in China, Australia, Sweden, British Columbia and across the United States. He typically incorporates original satirical songs during his act.
5. Ellis is a 2011 Harvard Graduate
Ellis graduated from Harvard in 2011. His Linkedin page notes that he has a bachelor of arts in political science and government with a minor in English. His biography on the Harvard website says he is fluent in French and a concert pianist.
Ellis was a midfielder on the Harvard men’s lacrosse team. His biography states that he is 6’3” tall and 215 pounds. During his senior year, he played in nine games, played two games in his sophomore year and 14 games during his rookie season in 2008 when he was a freshman.
Ellis is originally from Freeport Maine and graduated from Yarmouth High School, where he also played lacrosse. He was US Lacrosse All-American and served as his high school team’s Capt. during his senior year. He was a three-time all-state selection in lacrosse and two-time all-state selection in soccer.
According to one of Ellis’s LinkedIn page, he is the founder and president of the education management company, Ellis prep LLC which he founded in April 2013.