Jeremy Kappell, a meteorologist in Rochester, New York, was recently fired from his job at WHEC-TV after saying a racial slur live on the air. Now, however, Kappell is appealing to the court of public opinion, claiming his utterance was merely a slip of the tongue and hoping to get his life back on track.
During a Friday evening live weather segment, Kappell was speaking quickly into the camera and said “Martin Luther Coon Park.” He immediately corrected himself, saying “King” after making the mistake, but the damage was done.
1. A suspected white supremacist WHEC meteorologist named Jeremy Kappell was fired for making a racial slur on tv. He tried to pretend he mispronounce MLK's name by calling him "Martin Luther C**N". This is a common tactic of SWS (cont)https://t.co/J0zV70VpdA
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) January 8, 2019
Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren and the Rochester city council quickly released a statement denouncing the segment, which spread rapidly on social media:
“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. 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.”
In Rochester, NY, meteorologist Jeremy Kappell was fired for a recent on-air blunder. Referring to MLK park, he said "Martin Luther C××n" and immediately said "King" in correction. People are divided… slip of the tongue or an expression of underlying racism? pic.twitter.com/hfPyTqzHrl
— Darron Lasley, SPHR, SHRM-CP, CPRW (@mr_hr2k) January 9, 2019
The Rochester Association of Black Journalists (RABJ), also issued a statement condemning the clip and calling for action to be taken.
“This is completely unacceptable and contrary to all standards of broadcasting. 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.”
On Sunday, January 6, WHEC’s vice president and general manager, Richard A. Reingold, announced that Kappell had been fired in a statement to the press:
“I apologize for our broadcast of a racial slur in a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park during our Friday evening broadcast…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.”
Just in: WHEC standing by decision to fire Jeremy Kappell. Here’s a strongly-worded statement. pic.twitter.com/OnkpfXaLI3
— Maureen McGuire (@MaureenMcGuire8) January 9, 2019
After his firing, Kappell shared on Facebook a video in which he explains his side of the story. According to the fired meteorologist, his use of the word was nothing more than a slip of the tongue.
A heartfelt thanks to all those who have been supporting us. I wanted to take this time to explain our side of the story. Please keep my family in your prayers.
Posted by Jeremy Kappell on Monday, January 7, 2019
In the video, Kappell claims:
“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.”
Though Kappell’s patterns of behavior outside of the clip are unknown and may contradict or support the city’s opinion of him, it is worth noting that the idea of a person accidentally merging K-ing and j-UN-ior while speaking quickly seems at least reasonably plausible.
Kappell also expressed disappointment in his workplace:
“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.”
The internet is divided on Kappell’s firing. Some believe he made a mistake and others think it was intentional.
2, These white supremacists have been doing this racist Martin Luther C**n "slip-up since the 1960s. https://t.co/IGOj6hrIpY
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) January 8, 2019
— Al Roker (@alroker) January 9, 2019
#jeremykappell Ppl,let's be realistic,this man knew and meant to say what he said,and there is a multitude of U.C.R.'S out there ready to spew this type of mess then say "my words got jumbled"…
— Kinetic9-7 (@GaddyRomey) January 9, 2019
— Kris Floyd (@krisjfloyd) January 9, 2019
Mistake or Freudian slip? Sorry bro slip the tongue, slip of your job.@news10nbc is right and stop with the “after 20 years” defense
after 20 years Matt Lauer got caught too & he worked right down the hall from Al.
On a brighter note, I’m sure Breitbart needs a meteorologist. pic.twitter.com/ou6nT0guXd
— ElLeon (@Raynoch1) January 9, 2019
It’s disgusting that we live in a country where the President can spout vulgarity, but a meteorologist gets tongue-tied and gets fired. @JeremyKappell you were wronged. You’ll get a better job elsewhere.
— Julianna Pfingstler (@JuliannaEP) January 9, 2019
.@JeremyKappell You know damn well you said Martin Luther “Coon” King Jr Park. You’ve said it before but you slipped and said it on air this time. Now that you’re fired, you lie to explain it away. We won’t let you change the narrative. It’s a new day in Rochester. @shaunking https://t.co/MEfXozACwv
— Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. (@kmorrisjr) January 8, 2019
As an African American, this clearly seems like he got tongue ties with the words. Give the man his job back.
— Beverley (@bosayles) January 7, 2019
Time will tell what happens with Kappell but in the meantime, his story should be a lesson to meteorologists everywhere to speak slowly and intentionally.