Fired WHEC Meteorologist Talks to Forbes About ‘Verbal Slip’

By Stephanie Tsoflias Siegel 

Rochester meteorologist Jeremy Kappell has been in the national spotlight since he was fired for saying a racial slur during a Friday night forecast earlier this month.

Today, Kappell spoke to Forbes contributor Marshall Shepherd about what it’s been like to be in the middle of a racial storm.

Shepherd: Many of have said, even if this was a mistake, it rolled off so naturally that you likely have said this before. How do you respond to that?

Kappell: That is just plain wrong thinking. We are all shaped by our environments and our personal experiences. Essentially, whether we want to admit it our not, we all have inherent biases through which we see the world. We are all biased and to some degree prejudiced by the lens of beliefs that may be far from the truth. For those that heard “that word,” I think it speaks more to the biases of the listener than it does from those who made the verbal stumble. Keep in mind, this exact same stumble over the words, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” have been made at least three times on air over the last 15 years. There’s a reason for that. Something I’ve learned since, is a term known as a “spoonerism”. This is the combining of two words into one. In this case, as in the other three cases mentioned, I made accidentally combined the words “King” and “Junior.” Unfortunately for me, I stopped myself halfway through before correcting to “King Junior.” It was a rather unfortunate, and now costly, mistake to me and my family.

Kappell also addressed diversity in the newsroom.

Shepherd: Do you think there are generally challenges with race in newsrooms or in broadcast?

Kappell: That’s a difficult question for me address considering I’ve never been responsible for the hiring/firing of anyone in any of the newsrooms I’ve worked for. However, I do see the need for racial diversity and the need for our newsroom to reflect the values of our viewers by telling the stories that are most relevant to them. And I would say that it has been well documented that the black community particularly remains underrepresented in broadcast.

Kappell was fired after saying, “Martin Luther King Coon Jr.” on live television. He has since claimed it was a “verbal slip.” Many broadcasters, including Al Roker, have publicly supported Kappell, saying everyone makes mistakes.

You can read the full article here.

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