A black female meteorologist has been fired from the ABC affiliate in
Shreveport, La., she told Journal-isms, because she responded to a
racial remark posted by a viewer on the station's Facebook page.
KTBS-TV's action against Rhonda Lee followed a
previous response by Lee to a viewer who questioned whether she should
wear her short Afro, suggesting she put on a wig or grow more hair.
Lee messaged Journal-isms on Saturday, "I had a meeting with my ND
[news director] and GM [general manager] Friday trying to get my job
back. They told me the policy I violated isn't written down, but was
mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A
meeting I didn't attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there
isn't anything to point to.
"The week I was brought in to discuss [the] last post, I was told by
my ND that there were a few unclear things in the policy and that we
were going to have a meeting with George Sirven, the GM
about it. I was instead fired the next week — no discussion had. Sirven
claims that even if a policy isn't on paper we as employees are
responsible for abiding by them. There isn't anything in our employee
manual talking about social media dos and don'ts. I was accountable for a
rule that essentially isn't in existence."
Sirven told Journal-isms by email, "We do not comment on personnel issues out of respect for the employee and the station."
Lee provided Journal-isms with copies of the relevant Facebook postings to the station's website.
On Oct. 1, a viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu
wrote, "the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only
thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if
she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think
looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long
hair do the news.what about that (cq)."
Lee replied the same day, "Hello Emmitt--I am the 'black lady' to
which you are referring. I'm sorry you don't like my ethnic hair. And no
I don't have cancer. I'm a non-smoking, 5'3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week
running, 37.5 year old woman, and I'm in perfectly healthy physical
"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my
hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn't grow
downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening
agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is
their choice. However in my case I don't find it necessary. I'm very
proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in
all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little
girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my
contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to
see that what you look like isn't a reason to not achieve their goals.
"Conforming to one standard isn't what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
"Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."
Vascocu replied that Lee was right to be proud of who she is and that
he is not a racist, but ". . . this world has . . . certain standerd (cq). if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . ."
In a Nov. 14 post, viewer Kenny Moreland wrote, "Not
to start any trouble, because I think that the annual 'Three Minute
Smile' is a great function and I love to see kids so happy. Am I the
only one that has noticed that this year, all the kids, lets say, are
people of color? This is Channel 3, not KSLA, the 'Project Pride'
network, that might as well be part of the BET Channel. Did KTBS slip up
on a news story, and owe S'port's criminal mayor Cedric, a favor? Seems
like some racism going on to me. Just saying....."
Lee replied the next day, "I'm not sure I understand your comment,
'...this is Channel 3 not KSLA...' What are you trying to say?
"The children are picked at random. So there goes your theory that
they are selected for their color. I would like to think it doesn't
matter who the child is. If you truly just want to see the kids happy
your message had a funny way of showing it.
"Happy holidays.--Met. Rhonda Lee"
Referring to that exchange, Lee messaged Journal-isms, "I was the one
who brought it to their attention after they let it fester on the page
for 6 days, but was then chastised for responding at all. I sent a
screen grab to my boss via e-mail telling them that I'm ok with the
anti-Rhonda commentary sometimes, but what has been posted at the time
was . . . racist, and I asked them to please support me in removing the
ones that didn't encourage thoughtful, respectful and civil discourse on
our FB page. I never got a reply, only punished. To this day the posts
are still there."
Gary Dinges reported in May for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman that Lee filed a discrimination suit against her former Austin employer,
NBC affiliate KXAN. Lee said in the suit that she was "repeatedly
subjected to crude and insensitive remarks about her race." She joined
the Shreveport station 11 months ago.
Lee told Journal-isms, ". . . Race has been the issue with me since I
started. That much is VERY true. Weather is an older white boy business
and arms have been less than open for a young black girl — a polar
opposite. As reported I've had more problems here in the south than I
have anywhere else in my 25+ years in the business. Perhaps there is a
pattern, but I am a glutton for punishment (ha, ha), and I want what I
deserve as any professional would so if I have to fight for it I will."