WXXI AM News

Channel 10 meteorologist responds after controversy over allegations he made a racial slur

Jan 7, 2019

Mayor Lovely Warren
Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

The chief meteorologist for WHEC-TV is responding to the controversy that erupted after some viewers of a broadcast he gave last Friday heard him use what sounded like a racial slur against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Channel 10 fired Kappell on Monday, after last Friday he appeared to refer to "Dr. Martin Luther coon King Jr. Park."

A clip of the broadcast made its way to social media, and Mayor Lovely Warren, along with City Council President Loretta Scott and City Council issued a statement Sunday evening, saying the use of the word was "wrong, hurtful and infuriating."

She said the person who used the slur should no longer be employed at Channel 10 and that this is part of a larger issue; of how people of color are referred to in local media and that its time to deal with these issues "head on."

"I implore you all to go back and to look at what you put out there, what you display, all the information that you put out there, and how you depict people of color in this community. Does it reflect everybody in a light that they deserve?"

In a Tweet, Kappell said that he wouldn't jeopardize the future of his family and career to insert a racial slur "against the greatest civil rights leader of all time." And then on Monday night, he released a video on Facebook with his wife next to him, saying that the couple has seen an outpouring of support for his family. He said that what happened on Friday was a "simple misunderstanding."

Kappell says that he was talking too fast when referencing the civil rights leader and he "jumbled a couple of little words."

He says that as soon as he started to mispronounce what he was saying he put an emphasis on "King" and moved on, and had no idea how some people were going to interpret it. Kappell says that he would never tarnish the reputation of "one of the greatest civic leaders of all time," who Kappell says changed the world forever and "changed the world for better." 

Kappell says overall, his experience in Rochester has been extremely positive, and says he is extremely disappointed with the decisions by his TV station.

 Here is the Facebook video:

 

WHEC-TV Vice President and General Manager Richard Reingold issued this statement earlier on Monday:

"On behalf of News10NBC, I apologize for our broadcast of a racial slur in a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park during our Friday evening broadcast (1/4/19). Upon learning of the incident, News10NBC leadership immediately initiated an internal investigation and internal discussion, and by Sunday had made a staffing change.

As a result of that broadcast meteorologist, Jeremy Kappell is no longer with News10NBC. We believe strongly in holding our reporters and anchors to the highest standard. We are proud of our dedicated newsroom professionals, and expect and require that each respects and understands that their behavior reflects directly on the station for which they work and the community we serve.  

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. I regret that we did not immediately interrupt our broadcast and apologize on the spot.

Our Friday broadcast does not represent the values of News10NBC, its hardworking staff, or the great people of Rochester. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of America’s greatest heroes – for whom I, and all of us at News10NBC, have the utmost respect. I am terribly sorry to all of our viewers. We are redoubling our efforts to ensure that this never happens again."

Video of the broadcast that drew strong reaction on social media:

Mayor Warren said earlier on Monday that  at this point it doesn’t matter if the word was said on purpose or not, but what does matter is how the community deals with it.

"And have a real conversation around racism, around equity, around the words that we're using, the terminology we're using, and why it is offensive. Certain terminologies and words that have been used; some people don’t understand why they’re offensive and so I think that we're going to educate them."

The Rochester Association of Black Journalists has also weighed in on the issue, saying the incident is "completely unacceptable" and that they expect a "complete explanation of what happened and why nothing was done immediately after broadcast."

The statement issued Sunday by Warren and City Council invited local media and their management to help address the issues that have been raised, by joining with the city as part of the National League of Cities’ REAL (Race, Equity and Leadership) committee National Day of Racial Healing on January 22, to “have an open and honest conversation about how we can move forward.”