Shreveport, LA — KTBS-TV meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired from the station for violating a social media policy she says she never knew about. In November, Lee responded to a comment on Facebook that said the children who won the station’s annual toy giveaway “lets say, are people of color.” The comment also accused KTBS-TV of being racist.
Lee’s response to the comment cost her her job, even though the policy was “not written down” and was communicated at a newsroom meeting she did not attend.
The comment, from a viewer named Kenny Moreland, read:
“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 responded to the comment the next day, saying:
“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 that 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”
Lee told Richard Price of Journal-isms that she was the one who alerted the station to the comment, which they didn’t remove. Lee said:
“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.”
Oddly enough, the station “liked” an earlier comment from a viewer that said Lee needed 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.”
Lee responded that she was the “black lady” (a very nice lady, apparently) to whom the viewer was referring, and that she was sorry he didn’t like her ethnic hair. She went on to provide a little information about black hair and finished with “Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.”
KTBS-TV later responded that two employees were let go for “repeated violation of the station’s written procedure” and confirmed that Lee was one of the employees dismissed. An email, which was sent to employees in August, said the only proper response to these comments was to provide the commenter with contact information and tell them that he, presumably a media relations employee, would be glad to speak with them about their concerns.
Should Lee have lost her job for responding to the Facebook comment?