Wendy Bell: Pittsburgh News Anchor Fired Over Controversial Racial Facebook Post
Wendy Bell, a longtime news anchor for Pittsburgh television station WTAE, was fired this week after she posted a controversial, racially charged Facebook post, which the station said was “inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”
“WTAE has ended its relationship with anchor Wendy Bell,” the station’s parent company Hearst Television told the Associated Press on Wednesday, March 30. “Wendy’s recent comments on a WTAE Facebook page were inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”
— UPROXX (@UPROXX) March 31, 2016
Bell, who is a white woman, made a Facebook post on March 21, speculating about the identities of the two men who shot and killed five black people, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Willkinsburg on March 9.
“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday…. They are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20s,” Bell’s post, which has since been deleted, read in part. “They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.”
In the same post, Bell praised a black restaurant employee in a way some “readers felt was condescending.”
“I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special,” she wrote.
After receiving extensive backlash for her comments, Bell took to social media to apology, saying her previous post and words “were insensitive and could be viewed as racist.”
— UJReview (@UJReview) April 1, 2016
According to the Post-Gazette, Charles W. Wolfertz III, WTAE-TV president and general manager, also apologized on behalf of Wendy Bell.
“We at WTAE would like to apologize for the actions of one of our anchors earlier this week,” he said. “Wendy Bell posted a message on her Facebook page that offended many of our viewers. Her post offended us. Wendy has since apologized for what she wrote and acknowledged it was insensitive. Wendy is sorry for the words she chose, and so are we. It was an egregious lack of judgment.”
The police have yet to make an arrest in the shooting that took the lives of siblings Jerry Michael Shelton, 35; Brittany Powell, 27; and Chanetta Powell, 25, along with two cousins, Tina Shelton, 37, and Shada Mahone, 26.
While Wendy Bell has not returned phone calls for a comment on the situation, she did tell the Associated Press that she didn’t feel like the news station gave her a “fair shake.” Bell, who joined WTAE in 1998 and has won 21 regional Emmy Awards, also insisted the story wasn’t about her, but it was about “African-Americans being killed by other African-Americans.”
“It makes me sick,” Bell said on Wednesday. “What matters is what’s going on in America, and it is the death of black people in this country…. I live next to three war-torn communities in the city of Pittsburgh, that I love dearly. My stories, they struck a nerve. They touched people, but it’s not enough. More needs to be done. The problem needs to be addressed.”
— Pittsburgh PG (@PittsburghPG) March 30, 2016
On Thursday, March 31, the phrase “young black men” started trending on Twitter as users began sharing her story. While most social media users criticized Bell for her comments, and called her racist, others came to her defense and said they applaud her for her brutal honesty.
What do you think about Wendy Bell’s Facebook post? Do you agree with the news station parting ways with her? Leave your comments below.