Wendy Bell lawsuit: Did a WTAE journalist overstep her boundaries when she made comments that could be deemed racist and lacking in judgement?
Wendy Bell a former WTAE anchorwoman is suing the Pittsburgh TV station after they fired her for making racist comments on Facebook over a deadly mass shooting.
WTAE severed ties with Bell, March 30, following a controversial post the anchor made about an ambush that left left five people dead.
Since been fired, Wendy Bell has fired back, launching a lawsuit in which the award winning journalist insists she was only let go because she is white and would still have retained her job had she made the same comments about white suspects.
Read in part Wendy Bell’s lawsuit: ‘Had Ms. Bell written the same comments about white criminal suspects or had her race not have been white, Defendant would not have fired her, much less disciplined her.
‘Ms. Bell’s posting of concern for the African-American community stung by mass shooting was clearly and obviously not intended to be racially offensive.’
At the time of her firing, parent company, Hearst Television disclosed Wendy Bell’s comments were ‘inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.’
That though hasn’t stopped Bell who is now seeking back pay, punitive damages and her old job back.
Told the post, Bell originally penned March 21: ‘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 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. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.’
She also goes on to contrast the ‘young black men’ with a black teen she witnessed bussing tables at a restaurant, saying that teen would ‘make it’.
Bell also mentions how she praised the black teen’s work ethic to the restaurant manager, then wondered ‘how long it had been since someone told him he was special’.
Subsequent to her firing, Bell defended herself, saying she didn’t get a ‘fair shake’ from her employer, and that the story was not about her, but about ‘African-Americans being killed by other African-Americans.’
‘It makes me sick,’ she told AP after she was fired. ‘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.’
Bell joined WTAE in 1998 and has won 21 Emmy Awards.
Her post drew mixed reactions from viewers. Some saw her comments as offensive and called for her firing, while others said the comments were not racist and applauded her honesty.
Facebook pages in support and opposition of Bell were created in the wake of the incident.
— DConner89 (@TaureanReign) June 21, 2016
— Christopher Prude (@Creedotcom) June 21, 2016
And then there were these comments on the web that caught this author’s eye, see what you think?
People who think this is an infringement on freedom of speech need to remember freedom of speech does not absolve one of responsibility of speech. Public figures sign a social media behavior/standards contract. It is part of the employment contract. If they do not wish to follow the rules, then find other employment.
The truth sucks…everyone says they want it, but many times people can’t handle it when confronted with it…
I think she should just go to work for Fox News. She could freely rail on black people all day long in front of a much larger audience and get paid a lot more money. Why would she want to go back and work for a station that clearly doesn’t want her to speak her mind? Not smart.
Idont think ive ever heard an anchor mention the shooter was a christian while committing a crime. Of course we do it all the time if they are muslim.
I’m pretty certain her case has no merit.
If she were African American (which she is not), and she was not fired for posting racially tone-deaf remarks on her company’s social media page, her co-workers might sue for her having been protected by her race – true discrimination.
Firing her for poor judgment seems an appropriate action per current community standards. If she had not been fired, others would likely be calling for her to be fired.
WTAE, please don’t cave to this suit. I think her attorney, Samuel J. Cordes, should be ashamed for taking the case.
She had a contract that most likely included a clause that said “…any actions considered detrimental to the station…”..you can fill in the rest.