Meteorologist fired for saying racial slur on air sues TV station for defamation

Meteorologist fired for saying racial slur on air sues TV station for defamation
© WHAM

A meteorologist who was fired for appearing to use a racial slur during a broadcast has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, accusing the TV station of breach of contract and defamation. 

Jeremy Kappell, who was a chief meteorologist for WHEC, a NBC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., filed the lawsuit on Monday against WHEC-TV, Hubbard Broadcasting and WHEC general manager Richard Reingold, according to 13 WHAM, a local ABC affiliate

In addition to breach of contract and defamation, the lawsuit accuses WHEC, Hubbard Broadcasting and Reingold of intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. WHAM noted that Kappell is seeking a jury trial over his termination, as well as a monetary judgment.  

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The lawsuit comes more than three months after Kappell described a Rochester, N.Y., park named after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as "Martin Luther Coon" Park on an evening broadcast. Kappell had said at the time that he spoke "too fast" and said the slur by mistake.

The statement caused an uproar in the community. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called for Kappell's resignation. Reingold announced just days after the segment that Kappell was no longer employed by the TV station. 

"The words have no place on News10NBC's air," he said in a statement at the time.

Kappell's lawsuit, which was filed in Monroe County Court, says that "callous and reckless" conduct by the defendants caused Kappell to suffer from "severe emotional distress," according to WHAM. It contends that Kappell made a "linguistic error" when referring to the Rochester park. 

The lawsuit also accuses Reingold of defaming Kappell by "representing to the world that Kappell had intentionally uttered a racial slur."

"In doing so, Reingold defamed Kappell, as he knew or should have known that his statement, particularly as it related to Kappell's linguistic error and intent, was false," the lawsuit says. 

"We are disappointed that Mr. Kappell has taken this step, and are prepared to defend our decision to the fullest," WHEC-TV said in a statement on Monday, WHAM reported. "Because this matter is now in the courts, we will have no further comment."