A meteorologist who was terminated earlier this year after being accused of using a racial slur on-air has filed a lawsuit against the Rochester, New York, station that terminated him.
The meteorologist, Jeremy Kappell, filed the suit on Monday, naming not just WHEC-TV but Hubbard Broadcasting and WHEC general manager Richard Reingold.
Kappell was let go from the station in January after being accused of uttering the phrase “Dr. Martin Luther C–n King Jr. Park” while describing a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Square Park during a broadcast. In a message, Reingold said that the station’s broadcast of the word “disheartens and disgusts me,” and “that it was not caught immediately is inexcusable. I regret that we did not immediately interrupt our broadcast and apologize on the spot.”
Kappell denied uttering a slur at the time, calling it a “verbal slip” he would never have made intentionally, a sentiment echoed in his lawsuit.
“On January 4, 2019, during a WHEC-TV broadcast, Kappell suffered from linguistic error,” the suit reads, adding that his employment was terminated “prior to interviewing Kappell to question him about the incident, and prior to conducting any real investigation into the situation.”
“In fact, the only meeting Kappell had prior to being notified of his termination was one where Reingold was accusatory toward Kappell, did not let Kappell speak in any meaningful manner, and advised him that an investigation would occur.”
The suit adds that Reingold released a statement on behalf of the station “wherein he attributed a racial slur to Kappell, attributing a non-existent intent to Kappell that Reingold could not have reasonably had knowledge of and representing, to the world, that Kappell had intentionally uttered a racial slue.”
TheWrap has reached out to WHEC for comment on the suit, which alleges breach of contract, defamation per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Kappell is seeking unspecified damages.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.