Al Roker has a winning smile, and he let it loose Sunday when he snapped a selfie with his NBC News crew — in front of devastating flood damage and a stranded car.
Roker has since apologized for the insensitive selfie after a firestorm of anger erupted on Twitter. Al has also deleted the tweet and noted that the woman in the stranded car is okay, Page Six reported.
Al Roker tweeted the “flood selfie” with NBC colleagues, all three wearing slickers and grinning before the grim scene, including a collapsed highway.
Al’s photo came with this message, “My crew and I getting ready to report on East Coast flooding from S. Carolina on @NBCNightlyNews with Kate Snow.”
After people in the Twitter-sphere came down hard on Al Roker for looking jubilant during a historic flood, which as of Tuesday has killed 13 people, he issued the following apology.
“Absolutely correct. I apologize for being insensitive. The woman in that car got out without injury. We should not have been in the picture. We came down to report and I offended those who lost so much. I am sorry.”
@alroker The three of you are totally disgusting..your selfie turned my stomach..— Pita (@MyMick) October 5, 2015
You were SMILING. That is what was shocking. The topic was not joyful. @alroker— Carole Gilman (@CaroleGilman) October 5, 2015
According to the Washington Post, Al Roker explained his behavior as getting “caught up in a moment of camaraderie without thinking about surroundings.” Roker-supporters have since come to the weatherman’s defense on Twitter, accusing others of being too sensitive. One woman didn’t agree.
“It’s def not ppl being too touchy. Grinning in front of a destroyed road while in an area where ppl are losing lives and homes is incredibly inappropriate. If u can’t understand why then u are extremely out of touch,” she tweeted.
As USA Today noted, newscasters know better than to grin broadly while reporting serious news — a mass shooting, for instance — but apparently this common sense etiquette hasn’t yet translated into the modern-day habit of taking selfies to mark every occasion.
And Al Roker has rubbed people the wrong way on social media before. In 2014, he criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (while spelling his name wrong) for not closing schools before a snow storm, predicting that he’d be a one-term mayor. Roker apologized for that comment, too.
The situation in South Carolina has only worsened since Al Roker’s ill-advised selfie. Flood waters have killed 13 people as of Tuesday, dozens of dams and bridges have been destroyed, caskets have washed away, apartments looted, and billions of dollars in damage caused — and the rivers haven’t even crested yet.
All told, two feet of rain has fallen. Columbia resident James Shirer told CBS News he’s never seen anything like this historic flood.
“It’s been one of the worst things we’ve seen in the entire time that I’ve lived here. You’ve got people who are displaced from their homes, people whose businesses are wrecked. I don’t know how long it will take for all of us to overcome this.”
Eleven people have been killed in South Carolina and two in North Carolina, CNN added. Seven people drowned in the flood and four died in traffic accidents. As National Guard helicopters take to the skies to rescue the stranded, at least 500 roads and bridges have been closed in Columbia. Statewide, 19 dams have been breached, with water gushing into communities already ravaged by flood.
In Columbia, flood victims at Willow Creek Apartments were evacuated by rescue crews on boats, returning Monday to find TVs, jewelry, and other valuables stolen. Resident Juamaame Evins was among those robbed, but he was keeping a positive attitude.
“Even though we lost everything and stuff got stolen, we can rebuild together and help each other and be each other’s backbones and carry each other through this time because we need each other.”
In perhaps the most dramatic and heartbreaking story to come out of the flood, Pastor Wayne Reeves was giving an interview when two caskets popped out of the ground and started to be carried away by the waters — a husband and wife. Reeves swam into waist-deep water after the caskets as the deceased’s family looked on.
“This family don’t want to sit on the edge of this road all night long watching their family members bob in the water like that,” he said. “If that was my mom or my dad, I’d walk through hell and high water. And today it happened to be high water.”
Meanwhile, the government is faced with billions of dollars in rebuilding costs and this sobering truth: rivers may not crest for another two weeks and more rain is forecast.
“I believe that things will get worse before they get better,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said.
In other words, that’s not the time or the place for a selfie, Al Roker.
[Photo Courtesy Sean Rayford / Getty Images]