The chief meteorologist at an upstate New York NBC affiliate was fired on Monday after he allegedly used a racial slur against black people during a live television broadcast.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, Jeremy Kappell, now-formerly of WHEC-TV, was describing a photograph depicting Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square in downtown Rochester when he reportedly uttered the following offending combination of words: “…it was gray just the way it looked out at Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park.”
Video of the incident appeared to back up the accusation leveled against Kappell by his former employers and local elected officials.
“It is wrong, hurtful and infuriating that WHEC Channel 10 broadcast a racial slur in reference to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during its Friday News broadcast,” said a joint statement from Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren and the Rochester City Council. “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.”
The statement continued, demanding that Kappell “no longer be employed at Channel 10.”
In the days following Kappell’s verbal faux pas, the meteorologist tried to defend himself by describing the incident as “a simple misunderstanding.” In a Facebook Live video, Kappell addressed the controversy at length:
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. And unfortunately, I spoke a little too fast when I was referencing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So fast at the point where I jumbled a couple of words. Now, in my mind I knew I had mispronounced, but there was no malice–there was nothing that I could have–I had no idea the way that it came across to many people. As soon as I had started mispronouncing, I put an emphasis on “King” and 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. That was not a word I said, I promise you that.
That defense was all for naught.
“As a result of that broadcast meteorologist Jeremy Kappell is no longer with News10NBC,” said station vice president and general manager Richard A. Reingold in a live, on-air statement. “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.”
The phrase allegedly uttered by Kappell has been the cause of ire on at least two notable occasions in the past.
ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said the same thing in 2010 during a broadcast of the Mike & Mike show–but was allowed to keep his job after convincing network brass that it was simply a mistake.
Perhaps the first–and certainly the most notorious–use of the phrase across the airwaves came in 1965 when then-mayor of Selma, Alabama Joseph Smitherman used the term to directly refer to King while complaining about “outside agitators” organizing for Civil Rights. King would go on to lead three historic Civil Rights marches in Selma.
[image via screengrab/Facebook]
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