Al Roker says fired Rochester meteorologist deserves second chance

Local News

Today Show meteorologist Al Roker is showing support for the Rochester meteorologist fired after uttering a racial slur on-air last week.

In a tweet, Roker says former WHEC Chief Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell deserves a second chance.

“I think @JeremyKappell made an unfortunate flub and should be given the chance to apologize on @news10nbc,” Roker wrote. “Anyone who has done live tv and screwed up (google any number of ones I’ve done) understands.”

Responding to another tweet implying Kappell may use the word behind closed doors, Roker further backed Kappell, saying: “Perhaps, but do you know that. Unless some friends or acquaintances come forward with that, you can’t make that assumption.”

Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns WHEC, says Kappell was fired Sunday afternoon after they became aware of the slur. Kappell says he was speaking too fast during his weather segment on Friday and messed up when mentioning Rochester’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Speaking with News 8’s Adam Chodak on Tuesday, Kappell said, “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.”

The mistake seemed to go unnoticed until a video of the slur surfaced on social media, upsetting many online.

Kappell adds that he wanted to apologize after the incident, but wasn’t given the chance. “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.”

In recent days, however, Kappell’s firing has prompted online backlash against WHEC and made national headlines. An online petition supporting Kappell has received more than 30,000 signatures, as of Wednesday morning.

In a statement sent out Wednesday, the Urban League of Rochester, an organization dedicated to helping people of color in Rochester and across the country, lauded the quick action by WHEC management.

CEO William G. Clark writes, “I cannot speak on whether Jeremy Kappell, the individual who said the racial slur when referring to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., intentionally meant to hurt anyone. However, if you consider the historical context of the word and how it’s been used for decades as a disrespectful and degrading term for African Americans, I believe Mr. Kappell’s action merited a serious response.”

You can see more from our interview with Kappell here.

Tuesday night, Hubbard Broadcasting released the following statement responding to the controversy.

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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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