A former New York television meteorologist who was fired after allegedly referring to a downtown Rochester park as "Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park" during an on-air segment has filed a lawsuit against Rochester and its mayor accusing her of defamation.
Jeremy Kappell was on the air during a segment of the evening news when he said something that sounded like "Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park" while a photo of a downtown park that bore King's name was on the screen. Kappell did not correct himself at the time.
Shortly after the segment aired, Kappell claimed he hadn't intended to say that word and had been speaking too quickly in a Facebook live video.
"What happened on Friday, to me, it's a simple misunderstanding. If you watch me regularly you know that I tend to contain a lot of information in my weather cast, 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 to the point where I jumbled a couple of words. In my mind I knew I mispronounced, but there was no malice. I had no idea the way it came across to many people," Kappell said.
Two days after the segment aired, Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council president Loretta Scott demanded that Kappell be fired by WHEC management, calling his use of a racial slur "beyond unacceptable."
WHEC-TV later fired Kappell. The former TV meteorologist has already filed a lawsuit against WHEC's general manager, Richard Reingold, and the station's parent company, Hubbard Broadcasting, alleging breach of contract and defamation.
In a post on his website, Kappell wrote that he'd filed a defamation civil suit against the City of Rochester and Warren over his firing in January.
After almost a full year of deliberation the decision was formally made to file lawsuit against Mayor Lovely Warren with regards to her involvement in my termination at News10 WHEC and also the defamation created by her careless public accusations and unlawful demands for me to be fired. As a result, not only have I lost a job and potentially a 20 year career, but my family's name has been permanently tarnished.
Because of her actions, my family and I have suffered greatly these past many months and unfortunately she has taken zero responsibility and has shown no willingness to move towards a resolution. She left us with no other option.
A statement from city officials points out that Kappell had already been fired by WHEC before Warren posted her statement about Kappell's comments.