Reporter fired after responding to racially-charged Facebook comments about her hair
Being an on-air personality comes with its fair share of criticism and scrutiny from viewers. However, black meteorologist Rhonda Lee from the Shreveport, Louisiana ABC affiliate decided to take matters into her own hands after some viewers left racially-charged comments on her station’s Facebook page.
But Lee’s decision to stand up for herself on Facebook, ultimately cost her job.
Posted by viewer Emmitt Vascocu on KTBS 3 News’ Facebook page in October, the post criticized the veteran journalist’s choice to don a short, natural Afro:
“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,” Vascocu wrote.
Lee, the same day, wrote a lengthy response to Vascocu:
“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.” Lee continues the post writing, “I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair…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.”
Due to the backlash of negative comments, Vascocu apologized to Lee on Facebook and even called KTBS’s station manager to express his regret.
Although the issue between Lee and Vascocu seemed to be resolved, managers at KTBS were not happy with the social media exchange. In fact, Lee was told to contact the station managers in regard to any future controversial posts in their social media pages.
“[My manager] asked me, ‘I don’t understand why you don’t just let it go?’ I told him I’ve been black my whole life. I can’t let this kind of stuff just go and if you’re not going to say anything then something needs to be said on behalf of the station,” Lee told theGrio in an interview. “Any other company would have taken that down by now because the things on there are hurtful.”
A couple of weeks later, Lee commented on another post written by a viewer who asked why the majority of children picked for the station’s “Three Minute Smile” gift-giving holiday series were African-American.
Lee replied the next day, “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.”