Two years ago, meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired from KTBS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La. when she responded to a Facebook post criticizing her short afro. A viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu took to Facebook to complain about Lee’s hair, “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs 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. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”
Lee didn’t let the comment slide. She promptly replied:
“Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition. I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals. Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”
Vascocu replied that Lee was right to be proud of who she is and that he is not a racist, but “. . . this world has . . . certain standerd (cq). if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . .”
Although Lee’s response was professional, her employers fired her. “I had a meeting with my ND [news director] and GM [general manager] Friday trying to get my job back,” Lee said. “They told me the policy I violated isn’t written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A meeting I didn’t attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there isn’t anything to point to.”
Two days later, the TV station issued a statement in reference to the firing:
“On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country.
“Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
“Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.”
In addition to suing KTBS over her firing, Lee also has a pending lawsuit against one of her former employers, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, after she says she was “repeatedly subjected to crude and insensitive remarks about her race.”
In spite of all of this, Lee has landed a new job with WeatherNation.
In a post on her Facebook page, Lee said that she isn’t sure when her new job with WeatherNation will begin, but she’s relocating from Shreveport to Denver.
WeatherNation is a Weather Channel competitor, and it appears on DirecTV as well as digital channels across the country, as well as online streaming.