Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell says he could tell he was fumbling his words on air last week, but like any TV journalist, he said he had to keep going.
The former weatherman for WHEC-TV defended himself on “CNN Tonight” with Don Lemon Thursday night.
“It was a mispronunciation and I could tell that I was fumbling the words a little bit. The moment I realized that I was fumbling I immediately put the emphasis on King, not knowing that I had made a major error,” Kappell told Lemon. “I did what all of us journalists do. I moved on.”
Kappell was fired last Sunday after saying a racial slur on a January 4 broadcast. During the station’s Friday night broadcast, Kappell said “Martin Luther Coon Park” when referring to a downtown park named after Martin Luther King Jr. in Rochester, New York.
In a video viewed by CNN, Kappell says “King” immediately after using the slur and continues with the Friday night broadcast.
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When asked why it took him time to respond, Kappell said he didn’t even know what it was he said.
“Not only did I not hear it, but the other three people that were in the studio at the time with me, my co-anchors, they also did not hear it. The people in the control room, also no one came forward and said they heard it, either,” Kappell said.
Lemon backed Kappell in his account and related to his situation.
“I thought that your apology was sincere. That’s my opinion. And I don’t understand why you were fired. We make mistakes,” Lemon said.
And he isn’t the only journalist backing Kappell. Longtime weatherman Al Roker, a personality on NBC’s “Today” show later defended Kappell. Kappell “made an unfortunate flub and should be given the chance to apologize” on the station, Roker wrote on social media.
“Anyone who has done live tv and screwed up (google any number of ones I’ve done) understands,” Roker wrote on social media.
But even with the support of notable figures in the media, Kappell has been on the defense on social media.
“What happened on Friday, to me, it’s a simple misunderstanding. If you watch me regularly you know that I tend to contain a lot of information in my weather cast, which forces me to speak fast and unfortunately I spoke a little too fast when I was referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So fast to the point where I jumbled a couple of words. In my mind I knew I mispronounced, but there was no malice. I had no idea the way it came across to many people,” he said in a video posted to Facebook last Monday night.
Viewers of Kappell’s broadcast were split on whether they think he intentionally or accidentally used the slur.
In response to a critic who said the on-air remark was “racist and willful,” Kappell responded: “You are out of your mind to think I would jeopardize future of my family and career to insert a racial slur against the GREATEST civil rights leader of all time?!?! #Ridiculous #Hateful #Judgemental and #youdontknowthefirsthingaboutme!”
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Amir Vera and Holly Yan contributed to this report.