Thursday 2 February 2023
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WHEC Meteorologist Fired for saying “Martin Luther Coon” on Air

By Staff –

WHEC-TV meteorologist Jeremy Kappell was fired Sunday after using a racial slur on air.

During the television stations Friday evening broadcast, Kappell said “Martin Luther Coon Park,” when referring to the downtown Rochester Park named after the slain civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Kappell seemingly corrected himself by saying “King” immediately after using the slur and continued with the broadcast.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and city council called for Kappell’s termination and for an examination of WHEC’s response to the incident.

“It took the station nearly two days to apologize, and only after the station was shamed into doing so by a backlash on social media,” the statement read.

The Rochester Association of Black Journalists (RABJ) also issued a statement Sunday condemning the use of the racial slur on air. The organization’s statement said it viewed a recording of the incident provided by a viewer.

“This is completely unacceptable and contrary to all standards of broadcasting,” the statement read.

“We expect a complete explanation of what happened, who was responsible and why nothing was said immediately after the Friday broadcast. We also want to know what measures will be taken to prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future.”

“As a result of that broadcast meteorologist Jeremy Kappell is no longer with News 10 NBC,” Station Manager Richard Reingold said during an on-air broadcast Sunday.

“We believe strongly in holding our reporters and anchors to the highest standards. We are proud of our dedicated newsroom professionals and expect and require that each respects and understands that their behavior reflects directly on the station for which they work and the community we serve.

Kappell posted a video Monday and said his use of the slur was a mistake caused by speaking too fast.

“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.

“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.”

News Radio WHAM 1180 commentator Bob Lonsberry came out in support of Kappell and called on the local media to push back on the firing.

“One day they were all happy comrades; the next, it was something different,” Lonsberry said on his blog. “The mayor’s demand for the firing of the weatherman was just the beginning, of her statement and of this season of press intimidation.”

But Lonsberry has a checkered past when it comes to issues of race. The conservative news commentator was fired back in 2003 for likening former Rochester mayor William Johnson to an orangutan.

“I think that it’s a larger issue across the board when it comes to people of color and the way they are referred to—terminology used in reference… and I think that it’s about time that we start to deal with it and not sit idly by and allow these types of things to happen and not deal with it head on,” Mayor Warren said.