Former KTBS meteorologist Rhonda Lee, who was terminated at the Shreveport ABC affiliate last month for “repeated violations” of the station’s social media policy, is firing back at station management, claiming she was unaware such a policy existed.
In October, a viewer wrote on the station’s Facebook page: “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but its still not something myself that i think looks good on tv.”
Lee posted a lengthy response to the viewer, which she provided to Journal-isms:
Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.
I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.
Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.
Journal-isms details a November 14 exchange that Lee also responded to on Facebook. “Am I the only one that has noticed that this year, all the kids, lets say, are people of color?” a viewer wrote about a station event. Lee replied: “I’m not sure I understand your comment, ‘…this is Channel 3 not KSLA…’ What are you trying to say?”
KTBS said in a statement that Lee’s termination was “not because of her appearance or defending her appearance,” but because she violated a company policy:
If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow. Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.
In an appearance on CNN’s “Starting Point” this morning, Lee said she has “yet to see this policy.” She said she has asked the station to see the policy and was told that “there isn’t anything written down.”
KTBS general manager George Sirven provided NewsBlues with a redacted copy of an internal staff memo dated August 30 that outlines the station’s social media policy. A copy of the memo has also been posted on KTBS’ Facebook page. It reads:
When we see complaints from viewers, it’s best not to respond at all. Responding to these complaints is a very sensitive situation and sometimes our off-the-cuff response will be the wrong response … if you choose to respond to these complaints, there is only one proper response: provide them with [redacted]’s contact information, and tell them that he would be glad to speak with them about their concerns. Once again, this is the only proper response.
Watch Lee’s appearance on CNN:[Poynter, NewsBlues, CNN]