ROCHESTER – A popular television meteorologist is out of a job after station management said he used a “racial slur” on the air during a recent newscast.
Jeremy Kappell, the Chief Meteorologist for WHEC-TV, the NBC-affiliate in Rochester, apparently referred to a viewer photo of a city park as “Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park” during his weathercast on January 4.
WHEC fired Kappell the following Sunday after Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren along with other city officials pressed for Kappell’s termination, calling the words “hurtful”.
The mayor also cited larger issues relating to insufficient cultural sensitivity among the local media as the station didn’t give an apology immediatly after the incident occurred.
In a video uploaded to his Facebook page on Monday, Kappell explained that it was a “mispronunciation” and that he got his words mixed up.
“Unfortunately I spoke a little too fast when I was referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Kappell said. “So fast to the point where I jumbled a couple of words.”
Many people have been coming to the aid of Kappell, arguing that slip-ups are common on live TV.
Back in 2010, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg reportedly made a similar slip-up pronouncing MLK’s name on the air but he was not fired for the incident.
Even NBC personality and weatherman Al Roker took to Twitter on Wednesday to voice his support for Kappell.
Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., told TMZ on Thursday that Kappell should not have been fired rather, “an opportunity to be rehabilitated.”
“Yes, there have to be some repercussions,” said King. “I don’t think it should go as far in this particular instance as firing an individual.”
King went on to explain that a demotion, a reassignment to an off-air position or implicit bias training would have been a better solution.
“A broad sweep every time someone says a racial slur, ‘Let’s just fire them,’ all we’re doing is moving people around on the board. Because they’ll leave there, go to another place, and potentially do the same exact thing.”
However, in a statement released by station owner Hubbard Broadcasting and station general manager Richard Reingold, the company is standing by their decision to end their nearly two-year relationship with Kappell.
“Kappell clearly voiced a racially derogatory term on Friday night’s broadcast….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.”
A “I Stand Behind Jeremy Kappell” petition seeking his reinstatement has been started online and has gained over 50,000 signatures on change.org as of the time of publication.