Weatherman who was fired for on-air racial slur is now suing his city for defamation


A weatherman who was fired for allegedly uttering a racial slur live on air is now filing a lawsuit against his city's government, claiming he's "suffered greatly" due to its treatment of him.

Jeremy Kappell, a former meteorologist for WHEC-TV in Rochester, NY., was fired in January after he seemed to speak the phrase "Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park" during a broadcast. The station removed Kappell two days later and released a statement condemning his words.

"As a result of that broadcast, meteorologist Jeremy Kappell is no longer with News10NBC," Richard A. Reingold, the station's vice president, said at the time. "These words have no place on News10NBC’s air, and the fact that we broadcast them disheartens and disgusts me."

Kappell has long contended he spoke the slur on accident. Shortly after his firing, the weatherman posted a video to his Facebook page, apologizing for his actions and explaining what he described as an unfortunate mistake.

"In my mind, I knew I mispronounced [the name] but there was no malice... I had no idea the way it came across to many people," Kappell said. "That is not a word I said — I promise you that. If you did feel that it hurt you in any way, I sincerely apologize. I would never want to tarnish the reputation of such a great man as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

But city officials were not quick to accept that apology. That's what led Kappell to file a lawsuit against both Rochester's government and its mayor, Lovely Warren, on Monday.

Warren and other city officials called for Kappell's firing shortly after the January incident, releasing a statement that condemned his "racially derogatory, insensitive and vulgar language."

Kappell, who also filed a defamation lawsuit against WHEC-TV in April, claims that Warren's negative comments caused him to lose his job, tarnished his family's name and put his career in jeopardy.

"Because of her actions, my family and I have suffered greatly these past many months," Kappell wrote in a blog post on his website. "And unfortunately she has taken zero responsibility and has shown no willingness to move towards a resolution. She left us with no other option."

The lawsuit alleges that the city's public statement in January was made "without any investigation or research." Kappell was reportedly fired the same day that the statement was posted on Facebook.

Reingold, for his part, has said WHEC-TV had no idea about the mayor's comments and had already planned to fire Kappell.

Kappell, who maintains an active professional Facebook page with more than 63,000 followers, has also received support from outside the community. Shortly after his alleged comments, "Today" show star Al Roker publically defended the weatherman, saying he made an "unfortunate flub."

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