On Friday, during WHEC-TV’s evening broadcast, Jeremy Kappell said “Martin Luther Coon Park,” when referring to a park in downtown Rochester named after the beloved civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr Kappell then immediately said “King” after using the anti-black slur and continued with the broadcast.
The meteorologist said the slur was a slip-up from speaking too quickly Mr Kappell uploaded a video on Facebook apologising for the incident, citing that there was no malice intent behind using the slur.
“What happened on Friday, to me, it’s a simple misunderstanding,” Mr Kappell said in the video. “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 added.
He said that he “put emphasis on ‘King’ and moved on,” as soon as he heard his mispronunciation.
“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 apologise,” he said.
Mr Kappell’s use of the slur prompted outrage from viewers, city officials, and journalists. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released a joint statement with the city council denouncing the meteorologist’s use of the word. It called for his termination and an investigation into WHEC’s response to the incident.
“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,” the statement read. “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 apologise and address the slur.”
The statement expressed frustration in that it took the station and Mr Kappell two days to apologise for the incident.
The Rochester Association of Black Journalists released a statement expressing similar sentiments.
WHEC Vice President and General Manager Richard Reingold said in a statement released on Sunday that Mr Kappell was fired after an internal investigation and discussion.
“I apologise for our broadcast of a racial slur in a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park during our Friday evening broadcast,” he said. “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 Kappell, who has been a meteorologist for 20 years, expressed disappointment in his station’s decision for his termination.
“I’m so disappointed that my career could end this way and I’m extremely disappointed by my television station, whom I expect a certain level of support from and I did not receive at all,” he said
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