Uttering a racial slur on live television cost a local New York meteorologist his job this weekend. But the newscaster insists he only misspoke and that the station shouldn’t have fired him.
During a Friday-evening broadcast, Jeremy Kappell of WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York, said, “Martin Luther Coon Park” while referencing a park in the city named after Martin Luther King Jr.
By Sunday, the station had fired him.
“Upon learning of the incident, News10NBC leadership immediately initiated an internal investigation and internal discussion, and by Sunday had made a staffing change,” Richard Reingold, vice president and general manager of the news station, said in a statement. “As a result of that broadcast, meteorologist Jeremy Kappell is no longer with News10NBC.”
On Monday, Kappell, alongside his wife, posted a video to this Facebook page where he said he was “extremely disappointed” by the station’s decision to fire him and that he was mulling next steps. He insists that he dropped the racist language by mistake. He did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
"What happened on Friday, to me, it's a simple misunderstanding. If you watch me regularly you know that I tend to contain a lot of information in my weather cast, 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 to the point where I jumbled a couple of words. In my mind, I knew I mispronounced, but there was no malice. I had no idea the way it came across to many people," he said in the Facebook video.
"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. If you did feel that it hurt you in any way, I sincerely apologize.”
Kappell himself pointed to other incidents when newscasters had mistakenly said the exact same phrase on air but had not lost their jobs.
Kappell’s comments immediately caused an uproar on social media and even provoked Rochestor’s mayor, Lovely Warren, and the city council to release a statement condemning the remark on Sunday.
"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," read the statement, which called for Kappell’s firing. "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.”
Cover image: The Martin Luther King Memorial is seen at daybreak in Washington, Monday, March 5, 2018. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)