TV meteorologist fired after apparent on-air MLK slur

Posted at 4:09 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-08 18:09:29-05

A TV meteorologist at an NBC affiliate in Rochester, New York, was fired after being accused of using an on-air racial slur in reference to Martin Luther King Jr. However, WHEC-TV chief meteorologist Jeremy Kappell says he simply “jumbled” his words during Friday’s broadcast.

A video posted to social media of Kappell’s broadcast shows him apparently calling a park named for the slain civil rights leader “Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park.”

WHEC-TV general manager Richard Reingold wrote on the station’s website the station made a “staffing change” Sunday. “These words have no place on News10NBC’s air, and the fact that we broadcast them disheartens and disgusts me,” he wrote.

Kappell tweeted Monday: “I’ve never uttered those words in my life.” He said that he simply flubbed his words while speaking too quickly on air.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who is black, and other city officials called for Kappell’s firing, but many defenders on Twitter argued he simply misspoke.

Kappell responded in a Facebook video Monday night, saying in part:

“If you watch me regularly you know that I contain a lot of information in my weathercast which forces me to speak fast and unfortunately, I spoke a little too fast when I was referencing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — so fast that I jumbled a couple of words. In my mind I knew that I had mispronounced, but there was no malice, there was nothing I could have… I had no idea the way it had come across to many people. As soon as I mispronounced it I put an emphasis on King and had no idea what some people could have interpreted that as and I know some people interpreted that the wrong way. That was not a word that I said, I promise you that. And if you did feel that and it hurt you in any way, I sincerely apologize.”

In 2010, ESPN talk show host Mike Greenberg used the same phrase on a radio show in an apparent verbal flub and issued an apology later in the day. He was not disciplined.