- Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell was fired from a Rochester television station after appearing to use a racial slur during a broadcast.
- Local station WHEC announced Kappell’s termination Monday, and local leaders released statements condemning the language Kappell appeared to use.
- After his firing, a petition of support was posted online and social media flooded with messages of support for Kappell and his claim of a slip of the tongue gone wrong.
Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell was fired from a Rochester television station after appearing to use a racial slur during a broadcast.
Local station WHEC announced Kappell’s termination Monday and apologised for airing a “racial slur” during what it said was an unscripted part of the broadcast.
When referencing the city’s Martin Luther King Park, Kappell appears to say “Martin Luther Coon Park,” before continuing with the rest of the broadcast.
Kappell has flatly denied using a racial slur, saying in a video posted to his Facebook page Monday night the incident was a “misunderstanding,” which he blamed on his quick speaking that “jumbled” words but meant “no malice.”
“If you watch me regularly you know that I tend to contain a lot of information in my weathercast, which forces me to speak fast,” Kappell said, appearing alongside his tearful wife. “Unfortunately I spoke a little too fast when I was referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So fast to the point where I jumbled a couple of words.”
Kappell continued: “In my mind, I knew I mispronounced but there was no malice. I had no idea the way it came across to many people.”
Kappell said he had recognised the slip-up in the moment, but “moved on.”
“I had no idea what some people could have interpreted that as and I know some people did interpret that the wrong way,” Kappel said. “That was not a word I said, I promise you that. If you did feel that it hurt you in any way, I sincerely apologise.”
Station General Manager Richard Reingold released a statement Monday that confirmed Kappell had been fired because of the incident.
“These words have no place on News10NBC’s air, and the fact that we broadcast them disheartens and disgusts me; that it was not caught immediately is inexcusable,” Reingold wrote. “I regret that we did not immediately interrupt our broadcast and apologise on the spot.”
The Rochester Association of Black Journalists condemned the “clearly racist language” in a statement from its president.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement released Sunday criticised the station’s two-day delay in announcing Kappel’s termination, and said that the incident was part of a “larger issue in the community.”
“An issue that is exemplified by the response of management at Channel 10,” Warren wrote, “It took the station nearly two days to apologise, and only after the station was shamed into doing so by a backlash on social media.”
Warren went on to reference an article from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, concluding that the area’s local media was prone to mishandling racially sensitive issues and stories.
“This incident, along with the very recent news article containing a racially-charged accusation calling an African-American judge a “Carpetbagger,” demonstrates the need for greater cultural sensitivity and competency within the local media,” Warren said.
The article had followed Judge Melissa Barrett’s process of establishing residency in Rochester to complete her appointment to fill a vacancy in City Court.
Scores on social media hit back against the decision
After the station announced his firing Monday evening, Kappell’s Twitter was flooded with messages of support, many of which he retweeted.
Many tweets seem to come from listeners who support Kappell’s claim of misspeaking, with one user saying it was “clumsy, silly verbal fumble.”
Another user criticised Reingold’s response and decision to fire Kappell, suggesting he was influenced by a “lynch mob.”
A Change.org petition demanding Kappell back on air had over 5,200 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
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