The story of the local meteorologist fired after uttering a racial slur during a Friday broadcast is receiving national attention.
Jeremy Kappell has spent most of the day doing interviews on local radio and for network news. That slur came out while he was saying Martin Luther King Junior Park.
WHEC let him go after they say they conducted an internal investigation. Kappell said he simply jumbled the words and didn’t notice the mistake. Tuesday evening he sat down with Adam Chodak.
Adam Chodak: Let’s start by talking about what’s happened the last 36, 48 hours, what has life been like?
Jeremy Kappell: It’s been crazy. It’s been absolutely nuts. I wake up Sunday morning thinking I’m having a normal day and then a bomb was dropped on our laps and then at the end of the day I felt like our lives had been destroyed.
Adam Chodak: When you went back and listened to the sound for the first time, what did you think?
Jeremy Kappell: I was horrified. I could hear it. I could hear how people could interpret it that way. And thought, How could that have come from my mouth? I couldn’t understand and I was literally scared. I did not understand. And it wasn’t until later that I understood that I’m not the first to make this blunder. As you guys are probably pretty aware ESPN’s Mike Greenberg did the exact same thing. He rushed through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name and he mashed a couple of words together particularly King and Junior, wherever that comes from and if you’re not careful it just kind of slides out there. You know because you’re in the business of speaking for a living and you’ve got to speak fast, you’ve got to deliver a lot of content and unfortunately for me as a meteorologist everything I say is unscripted. On average a typical weathercast is 300-400 words and in this particular case I was moving from the weather center going to the chroma key, the image I was referencing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park I couldn’t ever see it and I was in the middle of multi-tasking on my way trying to get through some content to get to my next topic and unfortunately it came out wrong. And from the moment I noticed I was not pronouncing it right, didn’t hear that, I put an emphasis on King not knowing there was a terrible blunder in there, I did what any other reporter would have done, moved on.
Adam Chodak: “After you found out, you saw the video, did you want to apologize?”
Jeremy Kappell: “Yes, I absolutely did and that was my suggestion to our General Manager, that he give me the chance to explain what happened and to give an apology to anybody that may have been offended.”
Adam Chodak: “Some out there are wondering, while you’ve certainly come out and called it a mistake and apologized they’re wondering if you understand the gravity of the word itself, the hurt that it can bring to a lot of people in the community.”
Jeremy Kappell: “Yes, any racial slur, I know there’s intense hurt associated with that, to be honest, I know for a fact that I’ve never used that phrase in my entire life. I just wish I would have known that that was the way it was perceived as I was speaking.”
Adam Chodak: “Where do you go from here?”
Jeremy Kappell: “I don’t know. Those answers will come in time. We didn’t pick this fight, but this is our fight now and it’s not just about what happened between me and the station, but this has happened to a lot of people, this has ruined a lot of lives.”
Adam Chodak: “What has?”
Jeremy Kappell: “This rush to judgment with knowing so little about that person, about something floating around on social media. You don’t know anything outside of basically your own biases, your prejudices, when you’re casting quick judgments like that.”
Adam Chodak: You obviously don’t think you should have been fired. What do you think should have happened?
Jeremy Kappell: I think I should have been given the opportunity to address the public and explain and then to make an apology to anyone who was offended. If there were to be further disciplinary action, maybe, maybe a suspension, maybe a short suspension to make me more cognizant that I need to be more careful with my words and I need to own them.
Kappell’s wife told News 8 they told their two kids both in elementary school about the news right after they heard on Sunday. Kappell said he hasn’t had any job offers just yet.
Hubbard Broadcasting and News10NBC released a statement saying,
The entire team at Hubbard Broadcasting and News10NBC stand behind the decision we made on Sunday afternoon, January 6th, to terminate our contract with meteorologist Jeremy Kappell.
During the previous Friday night broadcast, Mr. Kappell clearly voiced a racially derogatory term. An utterance such as this, with no immediate apology, regardless of intent, is unacceptable and inexcusable. There can be no confusion by anyone who works at Hubbard Broadcasting or by anyone in the communities we serve, that this is unacceptable.
Since our decision to terminate his employment, this station has been caught in the middle of a vitriolic political debate. We believe we have done what is right for our station and our community, and will continue to take a strong stand for our personal and professional values.
We leave the hate-filled back-and-forth to others. News10NBC will focus on its mission to serve the greater Rochester community and move forward accordingly.
– Robert Hubbard, President, Hubbard Television Group
– Richard Reingold, VP and GM, WHEC-TV