Rochester, New York, Mayor Lovely Warren called for a local news station to fire its chief meteorologist because she claimed he used a racial slur during a broadcast, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
The station, WHEC-TV, dismissed forecaster Jeremy Kappell one day later.
Kappell was speaking on the air Friday when he scrambled the name of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, seemingly combining “King” and “Junior” so that it sounded as if he said “Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park.”
Rochester's WHEC Channel 10 decided to slip a little racist reference to Dr King in close to his birthday. This aired 1/4/19 @ aproximately 5:30 pmListen as the newscaster decides that Martin Luther King should be referred to as Martin Luther Coon King and keeps it moving the other day. I have already asked for an explanation from WHEC about this:
Posted by Alan Majors on Saturday, January 5, 2019
Warren, however, didn’t believe it was a slip of the tongue.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, the mayor and City Council President Loretta Scott demanded Kappell’s removal Sunday evening, saying in a joint statement, “It is beyond unacceptable that this occurred.”
“There must be real consequences for the news personality involved and also for the management team that failed to immediately apologize and address the slur,” they said. “The individual responsible for the slur should no longer be employed at Channel 10.”
Warren and Scott are black, while Kappell is white.
Richard A. Reingold, vice president and general manager of WHEC, announced the meteorologist’s departure in a statement Monday.
“As a result of that broadcast, meteorologist Jeremy Kappell is no longer with News10NBC,” Reingold said. “We believe strongly in holding our reporters and anchors to the highest standard.”
Reingold’s statement, which was made during the 5 p.m. news broadcast directly to WHEC viewers, said the decision had nothing to do with Warren’s demand.
“The minute we learned about it, we jumped on it,” he said. “We spent all day yesterday investigating it, discussing it and reviewing it. (The mayor) did not have any impact on our decision because we did not know about it.”
Reingold didn’t address whether he thought Kappell’s comments were intentional.
“It’s a difficult, painful decision, and I think anything that transpired between Jeremy and those conversations should remain private,” he said, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
Kappell, who had worked as WHEC’s chief meteorologist since October 2017, called the incident a “simple misunderstanding” that resulted when he “jumbled a couple of words.”
“I know some people did interpret that the wrong way. That (‘coon’) was not a word I said, I promise you that. If you did feel that it hurt you in any way, I sincerely apologize,” he said in a four-minute video posted on his Facebook page.
A heartfelt thanks to all those who have been supporting us. I wanted to take this time to explain our side of the story. Please keep my family in your prayers.
Posted by Jeremy Kappell on Monday, January 7, 2019
Kappell said the response to his slip of the tongue was an “ordeal” for himself and his family. He also said he was disappointed that WHEC didn’t offer any support.
“I am … extremely disappointed at the decisions made by my television station, who I expected a certain level of support from and I did not receive at all,” he said.
The response from viewers was a different story, however, with the majority of social media comments siding with the meteorologist.
Please hang tough. You can survive this and come out stronger.
God bless you and your family.
— Jim Arthmann (@Backdoor121) January 8, 2019
I am sorry you and your family are going through this. I have been a fan of yours since you arrived.
Excellent Facebook reply.
— Ed Traphagen (@Trapper51) January 8, 2019
Stay strong, Jeremy! You will survive, overcome and live to tell the tale. This is so wrong.
— Kelly Gough (@VillageVet14580) January 8, 2019
So sorry you are getting a negative outcome to a simple speech slip, It’s obvious that it was a mistake and not at all intentional.. Sending prayers
— Tawyna Tucker (@TawynaNBama) January 8, 2019
A petition urging the station to rehire him had more than 12,500 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
Kappell made it clear he greatly admires the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I have never and would never do anything intentionally to tarnish the reputation … of the greatest civic leader of all time,” he said.
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