The management of WHEC-TV and its corporate parent have released a new statement after the firestorm of comments that followed after the company fired chief meteorologist Jeremy Kappell on Sunday.
Kappell was fired after he was heard using a racial slur during a broadcast last Friday, when he was talking about a downtown park, and appeared to call it, “Martin Luther coon King Jr. Park.”
Kappell later said that he was talking too fast when referencing the civil rights leader and he "jumbled a couple of little words." He said that he would never tarnish the reputation of "one of the greatest civic leaders of all time."
The firing of Kappell brought many comments on social media over the last couple of days with some people agreeing with the termination, and others angry that Kappell was fired for what they felt was just a verbal flub. The story also got picked up by some national media.
NBC's Today Show did a segment on the controversy on Wednesday morning. Soon after that segment aired, Today Show meteorologist Al Roker tweeted that he thought Kappell “made an unfortunate flub and should be given the chance to apologize on news10nbc." Roker also wrote that, “anyone who has done live TV and screwed up (google any number of ones I’ve done) understands."
On Sunday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, City Council President Loretta Scott and City Council issued a statement calling for the TV station to part ways with Kappell, saying that it was “beyond unacceptable that this occurred.”
Warren also said 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."
Warren said 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," Warren said.
WHEC’s Vice President and General Manager Richard Reingold, and Robert Hubbard, the president of Hubbard Television Group, the corporate parent of Channel 10, released this statement on Tuesday evening:
"The entire team at Hubbard Broadcasting and News10NBC stand behind the decision we made on Sunday afternoon, January 6th, to terminate our contract with meteorologist Jeremy Kappell.
During the previous Friday night broadcast, Mr. Kappell clearly voiced a racially derogatory term. An utterance such as this, with no immediate apology, regardless of intent, is unacceptable and inexcusable. There can be no confusion by anyone who works at Hubbard Broadcasting or by anyone in the communities we serve, that this is unacceptable.
Since our decision to terminate his employment, this station has been caught in the middle of a vitriolic political debate. We believe we have done what is right for our station and our community, and will continue to take a strong stand for our personal and professional values.
We leave the hate-filled back-and-forth to others. News10NBC will focus on its mission to serve the greater Rochester community and move forward accordingly."