Kappell speaks after firing; community leader hopes incident becomes 'learning experience'

(Photo: Jeremy Kappell/Facebook)

ROCHESTER,NY (WHAM) -Two days after he says he learned he was fired, former WHEC Meteorologist, Jeremy Kappell, is sharing his side of what happened during one of Friday's broadcasts.

On Tuesday, he spent a portion of the day making the rounds on both radio and television to defend himself.

He said he stumbled over his words and he did not realize in the moment that he had used a slur when referring to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Park.

"That's the biggest issue: I was unaware. Keep in mind, we had a studio at the time I was delivering the weather cast; nobody in the studio heard it either," Kappell said.

Days later, he continues to receive both criticism and support from the Rochester community.

"First and foremost, if I offended anyone unintentionally, I am sorry," he said.

However, some people believe this isn't enough.

"I can't tell the intentions of his heart, but I know the pain that word has caused not only me but, a number of people I am familiar with," said Jerome Underwood, CEO and President of Action for a Better Community.

During his interview with 13WHAM, Kappell said he crunched his words together during Friday's broadcast, uttering what some say they heard as a racial slur.

"I would never do anything to tarnish the great reputation of that man." Kappell said. "I think that's the problem; we are so quick to judge. Dr. Martin Luther King said don't judge a man by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character," he added.

"The word is jarring, first of all, and then the smoothness of which it was uttered really alarms me," said Underwood.

He said this is not something of which the community can simply let go. "I wish him well. Hopefully, this is a huge learning experience for him and family and for all of us," he said.

"The damage has been done, you know. I am not so much concerned about him. I am concerned about the young children and parents we have to support that are exposed to racism," Underwood said.

He said the word uttered holds a deep meaning.

"I want them to understand the depth of the wound that word inflicts," Underwood explained.

Kappell, who is now out of a job, has gained more than 20,000 supporters on an online petition titled, "I Stand Behind Jeremy Kappell."

He said he is unsure of what's next for him and his family.

"We've been picking up the pieces slowly since then, and we don't know what's next," he said.

On Sunday, Mayor Lovely Warren had called for Channel 10 to fire Kappell.

"Do I think she rushed to judgement? Absolutely. The least she could have done was reach out to me," Kappell said.

13WHAM did have an interview scheduled with the Mayor on Tuesday to talk about his response to what's been happening, but her office decided to cancel the meeting.

A newly-released statement from WHEC leadership reads:

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.
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