TV host Fred Willard fired after lewd conduct arrest

(Reuters) - Comedic actor Fred Willard was arrested in Los Angeles for lewd conduct in a Hollywood adult movie theater, causing the makers of a television show he hosted, “Market Warriors,” to promptly fire him on Thursday.

Willard, 72, known for roles in films such as “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Best In Show” as well as an Emmy Award-winning turn in the TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was booked for lewd conduct and later released, said a police department spokesman, who declined to detail the conduct.

Celebrity website TMZ reported Willard was caught by police watching movies with his pants down, but that could not be confirmed. Willard’s attorney, Los Angeles-based Paul Takakjian, disputed the reason given for the arrest, but also declined to provide details.

“With all due respect to the individual officer, our belief is that Fred did nothing in any violation of any law,” Takakjian said in a statement. “We will be working vigorously to clear his name in this matter.”

But the producers of “Market Warriors,” which is made for the PBS network by Boston TV station WGBH and debuted this week, wasted little time in firing the actor as host of the program about roving antiques buyers.

“Given the unfortunate news reported today, effective immediately, Fred Willard no longer will be involved with the ‘Market Warriors’ series,” the channel said in a statement. It will re-narrate upcoming episodes using another host, Mark Walberg, of its popular PBS program, “Antiques Roadshow.”

The arrest, which took place Wednesday night but was first reported early Thursday morning, surprised Hollywood watchers who recalled the 1991 indecent exposure arrest of actor Paul Reubens at an a adult movie theater in Florida.

Reubens, known for his childlike character Pee-wee Herman, was riding high at the time following the success of his “The Pee-wee Herman” TV show and several movies, but the arrest sent his career spiraling downward. Only recently has it recovered.

Willard is a veteran comedic actor who has appeared in more than 200 films. He most often portrays characters who seem daft or absent-minded but are nonetheless likeable.

He currently stars in TV improvisational comedy “Trust Us With Your Life,” but that show’s episodes were pre-taped. It was unclear whether its network, ABC, would continue to air the program or remove it from the network’s lineup.

Reporting by Christine Kearney and Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Eric Walsh