Weatherman Is Fired After Using Racial Slur in Naming Martin Luther King Jr.
A meteorologist for a television station in Rochester was fired Sunday after he uttered a racial slur on air while describing a city park named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jeremy Kappell, a News10NBC meteorologist, used a derogatory term for black people as he was describing a picture of the park during a Friday broadcast about the weather, inserting the slur between “Luther” and “King.” A clip of the segment began circulating over the weekend, drawing furious reactions and calls for reprimand.
Reached by phone on Monday evening, Mr. Kappell confirmed that he was fired Sunday. He said that he had not intended to use the word during the unscripted broadcast but had misspoken. Mr. Kappell said he had been a meteorologist for the television station since October 2017 and had two years left on his contract.
He released a video Monday evening responding to his firing, saying that he had jumbled his words. He apologized to those who felt hurt.
“I’ve probably said Martin Luther King Jr. a thousand times or more in my career,” he said in the phone interview. “You say the name so regularly. To my knowledge, this is the first time that it came off wrong.”
Richard A. Reingold, the vice president and general manager of the news station, apologized to viewers in a video on Monday, saying that he was first alerted to Mr. Kappell’s use of the word on Sunday morning. A statement from Mr. Reingold was also posted on the television station’s website.
“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,” Mr. Reingold said in the statement. “I regret that we did not immediately interrupt our broadcast and apologize on the spot.”
The station said it was made aware of the slur by an employee who saw a post about it on social media. It’s not clear why it took so long for Mr. Reingold to be alerted.
Mr. Reingold said in the statement that after the station was alerted to Mr. Kappell’s broadcast, it “immediately initiated an internal investigation and internal discussion” resulting in Mr. Kappell’s firing.
Mr. Kappell said in the interview that he had a series of meetings on Sunday before a “very quick decision” was made to fire him. He declined to be more specific.
In the station’s video, Mr. Reingold is asked by the News10NBC reporter Brett Davidsen if he thought that Mr. Kappell’s use of the slur had been intentional.
While not directly responding to Mr. Davidsen’s question, Mr. Reingold said the decision had been made and it had been “difficult” and “painful.” He said that Sunday’s conversations between Mr. Kappell and the television station should remain private.
Criticism of Mr. Kappell had built over the weekend since the broadcast, though some also expressed support for him on social media, saying he had used the word inadvertently and the station had overreacted.
“This is completely unacceptable and contrary to all standards of broadcasting,” the Rochester Association of Black Journalists said in a statement condemning the use of the slur on Sunday. “While we are aware that the station has issued an apology, we expect a complete explanation of what happened, who was responsible and why nothing was said immediately after the Friday broadcast.”
Mayor Lovely Warren of Rochester and the Rochester City Council released a joint statement on Sunday calling for “real consequences for the news personality involved and also for the management team that failed to immediately apologize and address the slur.”
Follow Mihir Zaveri on Twitter: @MihirZaveri.
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