*Wendy Bell, the Pittsburgh TV news anchor who sparked outrage from posting a racially inflammatory Facebook message after the fatal shooting of five black people, has been fired.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hearst Television, the parent company of WTAE-TV, the station Bell worked for, issued a statement Wednesday (Mar. 30), saying “WTAE has ended its relationship with anchor Wendy Bell. Wendy’s recent comments on a WTAE Facebook page were inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”
Bell’s dismissal, which was confirmed by WTAE-TV president and general manager Charles Wolfertz III, comes more than a week after the ambush shooting, which the Associated Press notes killed “siblings Jerry Michael Shelton, 35, Brittany Powell, 27, and Chanetta Powell, 25, along with two cousins, Tina Shelton, 37, and Shada Mahone, 26.” At the time of the shooting, “Chanetta Powell was nearly eight months pregnant.”
Taking to Facebook, Bell, who is white and had been with WTAE for 18 years, weighed in on the shooting via a lengthy message she posted on March 23.
“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday,” Bell’s post read in part “… They are young black men, likely teens or in their early 20s. 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. hey know the police. They’ve been arrested.”
READ RELATED STORY: TV Anchor Wendy Bell Removes and Apologizes for ‘Racist’ Facebook Post
Soon after Bell posted her message, growing calls for her termination came from viewers upset over what they deemed to be a racist statement. Since making a public apology on the air last week, Bell has not been on television. In his apology, Wolfertz referenced Bell’s ‘egregious lack of judgment’ in posting racial stereotypes on her official Facebook page, the Post-Gazette stated.
Although Bell edited her Facebook statement since her original post, she still caught flak as various websites, including verysmartbrothas.com, which posted parodies against the longtime newswoman.
Bell’s firing should’ve appeased her critics, but the action has garnered a different reaction from those who did not want to see Bell without a job.
“The irresponsible statements demonstrate a persistent problem with how African-Americans are negatively stereotyped by too many journalists and news organizations. . . .”, the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation said in a statement on Thursday (Mar. 24). “The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation invites WTAE’s newsroom managers to meet with PBMF to discuss how to prevent future mistakes of this nature. And PBMF encourages all local news organizations to cooperate with PBMF in its recently begun study of the number of African-American and other minority journalists working in this region and whether they are empowered to help ensure that news coverage is fair, balanced and as free as possible of the type of irresponsible content characterized by the referenced examples. . . .”
The creators of a Facebook page, “Demand WTAE Hold Wendy Bell Accountable,” who were more in favor of finding accountability rather instead of a firing, voiced similar feelings.
“As the name of the page states, the goal is accountability,” the creators wrote on Sunday (Mar. 27). “WTAE should follow its social media policy, as any company would. That is the first step in accountability. The public acknowledgement by the station is another important step. WTAE stated they will continue to pursue an appropriate outcome and we acknowledge that takes time. Hopefully we will hear more from them in the future.
“For many people, accountability DOES mean the termination of her employment. However, accountability could also mean intensive diversity training to give Ms. Bell a true understanding of white privilege, implicit bias, colorblind rhetoric, and systemic racism. Perhaps then she could use her undeniably broad influence to help
educate the public about these very issues. Certainly there are other forms of accountability as well.
“We hope that WTAE and Ms. Bell will work with PBMF to find accountability.”
The preference for accountability for Bell’s message continued with verysmartbrothas.com’s Damon Young, who also expressed Wednesday how it wasn’t his intent to get Bell fired.
“When I wrote about WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell’s racially problematic Facebook post last week, I began by stating I did not intend for her to get fired. This was true then and is still true now. I wasn’t writing with that aim. And even now, after learning she was let go earlier today, I don’t feel particularly happy about it. . . .,” The Pittsburgh blogger wrote.
“That said, I don’t feel bad for her either. She very much deserved to get fired. She earned this. Her post, the edits, the hysterical deleting of critical comments, her sorry, not-sorry apology — these were all symptoms of a sickness. . . .”
Despite no arrest made for the shooting, WPXI cited District Attorney Stephen Zappala, as it mentioned that “investigators believe they have identified the gunmen, whose names have not been released at the time. The station goes on to acknowledge Zappala’s comments about him being ‘cautiously optimistic that we have identified the people responsible for this.’ ”