ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CBS Local) — A TV meteorologist who was fired after being accused of using an on-air racial slur said he simply “jumbled” his words during the broadcast.
A video posted to social media shows Jeremy Kappell referring to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Square Park in downtown Rochester as “Dr. Luther Coon King Jr. Park.” The incident occurred during Friday’s News10NBC 5:30 p.m. broadcast.
Kappell, who had been WHEC’s chief meteorologist since October 2017, called the incident “a simple misunderstanding” that occurred because he “jumbled a couple of words” when he spoke too fast on the air.
“I know some people did interpret that the wrong way. That (“coon”) was not a word I said, I promise you that. If you did feel that it hurt you in any way, I sincerely apologize,” said Kappell, flanked by his wife, Lisa, in a four-minute video statement he posted Monday evening on his Facebook page.
Kappell concluded the video by asking viewers to withhold judgment.
“As our great teacher tells us: Judge not lest thou be judged. In the meantime thank you so much for being here and thank you for your support. We’ll be in touch. Thanks.”
Leaders in the local African-American community immediately denounced Kappell after the incident.
“What he said was offensive to people of color and, really, everyone, because Dr. King was a hero. And to say ‘coon’ in association with his name is deplorable and unacceptable,” said Richard McCollough President of Rochester Association of Black Journalists.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council President Loretta Scott called for Kappell’s firing on Sunday.
“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,” they said in a joint statement on Facebook. “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.”
The station’s vice president and general manager, Richard A. Reingold, confirmed Kappell’s dismissal in a statement Monday.
“These words have no place on News10NBC’s air, and the fact that we broadcast them disheartens and disgusts me,” he wrote.