A local TV weatherman lost his job for a racial slur he said on the air Friday.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called for his firing over the weekend, and Monday, WHEC 10 announced meteorologist Jeremy Kappell had been fired following an internal investigation.
Kappell was fired for something he said while referencing a photo of the ice rink at Rochester's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park during a Friday evening broadcast. Spectrum News will not repeat the word, but Mayor Lovely Warren called it a racial slur, wrongful, hurtful, and infuriating.
Rochester City Council, and the Rochester Association of Black Journalists have also condemned the language used. Warren described it as part of the Rochester media's problem when it comes to the use of offensive words as they relate to people of color.
"I believe that we have not accurately depicted and continue to utilize words that are offensive when it comes to people of color," Warren said. "I have been one to call people and behind the scenes and say this is offensive when you utilize this terminology and I have been told 'no it isn't.' And I think that it is unfortunate that we have now come to a point that where people of color can stand up and say that I think that that's offensive and this is the reason why and have someone tell us that, 'no, because I didn't mean it in that in that way.' The fact of the matter is that we can all use some cultural competency. And I think this time, we've had enough."
"Don't be quick to judge, because at the root of it, that's where this issue is," Kappell said.
Kappell appeared on local media Tuesday to tell his side of the story about the episode that cost him his job. He apologized to those who considered what he did, the use of a racist term.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I am far from a racist and anyone who knows me, knows that," Kappell said. "And to make that assumption based on a couple-second clip based on what you thought you heard — I think that speaks more to you than to me."
Kappell said he was disappointed with Mayor Warren's call for his firing and compared her response to those who negatively reacted to the on-air incident that cost the meteorlogist his job.
"I'm very disappointed that you didn't reach out to me first," Kappell said. "I didn't pick this fight, this fight picked me. I don't have a job. My family has no income. I don't know what we're going to do after this, but right now this is what we're doing."
Kappell reached out to the person who first posted the now-viral video to offer an explanation as to what happened, however, that person hasn't yet responded to Kappell.
Channel 10 issued a statement apologizing. General Manager Richard Reingold said "the fact that we broadcast it 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."
Warren also called a Democrat and Chronicle column last month that described an African American city court judge as a "carpetbagger" insensitive, and an example of the problem she says Rochester has.
In a statement, the publication's Executive Editor Michael Kilian said he appreciated the open dialouge and would reach out to the mayor directly. He also explained that the columnist who wrote the piece used the word in the appropriate context:
Merriam Webster dictionary offers two definitions for the term "carpetbagger." [David] Andreatta chose to use the term in the sense of "a nonresident or new resident who seeks private gain from an area often by meddling in its business or politics."
The term’s origins are clear from the other definition, of a "Northerner in the South after the American Civil War usually seeking private gain under the reconstruction governments."
The mayor says the city will ask all local media outlets to join the city in the National League of Cities National Day of Racial Healing on January 22.
Kappell took to social media Monday night to defend his actions, saying it was simply a mistake.
In just a couple days, Kappell's firing has prompted a whirlwind of chatter on radio, television and online. USA Today, People, CNN, and Fox News all latched onto the story.
"Mr. Kappell clearly voiced a racially derogatory term. An utterance such as this, with no immediate apology, regardless of intent, is unacceptable and inexcusable.